The Last Detail
nytheatre.com review by Gyda Arber
August 15, 2004
Neil Genzlinger’s new musical adaptation of The Last Detail has an amazing cast, great music, a fabulous story, and one problem: it shouldn’t be a musical.
The play (based on the novel of the same name) follows the journey of Navy members Billy “Bad-Ass” (Mason Pettit) and “Mule” Mulhall (Kevin Mambo) as they transport young prisoner Meadows (Tom Shillue) from Norfolk to New Hampshire. Along the way they meet some interesting characters, see some great sights, and are forced to do some soul-searching about their blind loyalty to the Navy. The great music by Julia Darling and Andrew Sherman distracts from, instead of furthers the story, and many pieces feel as if they’re "trunk" songs, fitted into the gaps instead of being original pieces created specifically for this show. Despite the ill-fitting (but well-written) music, the script is fascinating, keeping the audience attentive and interested all the way through.
The cast is top-rate, and even includes a Tony nominee (the under-utilized Mary Testa), a rare sight in FringeNYC. Mason Pettit and Tom Shillue give good performances, but it is Kevin Mambo, in the role of Mule, who steals the show. Director Michael Weitz has obviously done a great job with the casting, leading his performers to some powerful performances.
I would love to see The Last Detail again, with all but the a capella and scene change music cut out. If the show is allowed to be an intermission-less play, which it seems to want to be, the story would be even more enthralling and much more effective.