Yes– MORE THEATER! The season is in full swing and I just saw THE MOST WILDLY INSPIRING theatrical undertaking thus far this season presented by ARTS EMERSON: ERNEST SHACKLETON LOVES ME. In case you forgot, he’s the legendary Irish explorer who crossed Antarctica between 1914-1917 and barely made it back alive after the ice ate his boat, and the crew ate the dogs. That Ernest Shackleton. And yes, it’s a musical–a whipcrackingly inventive multi-media musical featuring astounding historical footage, video projections, live and synthesized music, and two performers playing multiple roles including Ponce De Leon in a bit part. I flipped– and so will you.
Here goes. Single mother and video game composer Kat who lives in a freezing Brooklyn apartment has just been fired, and left by her boyfriend who’s off on his own journey with a “Journey” cover band. Oh, and the baby has colic. Kat hits a dating website–“Cupid’s leftovers.com”– and before you know it, Ernest Shackleton himself reaches out across time to claim a date! He tells her that her musical symphonies are what keep him going and how about coming along on an epic journey to Antarctica. HUH? Joe DiPietro’s book is so fleet, funny, and sure of itself, and the music by Brendan Milburn so soaringly moving, that I had no trouble suspending disbelief and going along for the ride– even when Shackleton bursts out of Kat’s refrig and their worlds commingle.
Kat is played by GrooveLily’s tiny dynamo actress/singer Valerie Vigoda who attacks the electric violin and percussion like a wild woman, and wrote the lyrics. The intrepid and bearded Ernest Shackleton in boots, goggles, and sweater cap is played by the spectacularly muscled Wade McCollum like an even haler and heartier Sean Connery! Together they make beautiful music together– his aching falsetto and her ferocious alto sweep us through haunting sea shanties, bittersweet ballads, and soaring celtic anthems. As the sweep of history swirls around them, they inspire each other to conquer one obstacle after another, physical and emotional: starvation, hurricanes, blizzards, mountains, loneliness, desertion, poverty– in other words, the open sea of life and whatever it throws at you. By the end, which came after a brisk 9o minutes no intermission, I was moved by the blinding can-do optimism of it all and was on my feet applauding with the rest of the audience.
DO NOT MISS ERNEST SHACKLETON LOVES ME. You will LOVE IT! At the Emerson/Paramount Center only through October 4!