"BUDDY" CIANCI: THE MUSICAL

nytheatre.com review by Michael Colby Jones
August 15, 2003

Developing a musical is one of the hardest tasks there is in the world of professional theater. Add in the restrictions of dealing with a historical tale—albeit recent history—and it gets even tougher. Bringing all of the elements in line to tell a piece of history while making it interesting, intriguing, and even exciting is a true test. "Buddy" Cianci: The Musical passes. It’s not that there aren’t any glitches, or room for growth in its young life, but "Buddy" makes the grade on the most fundamental element of theater, storytelling.

With high energy and zeal, this cast brings you into the real world of Providence, Rhode Island, and its whirlwind romance—more accurately, love/hate relationship—with Mayor Buddy Cianci, who had the passion and drive to bring his town from being the "Armpit of New England" to the glistening city we now think of as Providence, Tourist Destination. Even if it meant getting a little dirty to do it.

The use of leitmotif and reprise is liberal, but not over the top, and the songs show real promise. Standouts include "The Armpit of New England," "It’s the Money That Counts," and "The Ass You Have to Kiss Today." These songs are the strongest in the show because they combine the process of moving the story forward and giving real insight into the diamond-in-the-rough characters that creators Jonathan Van Gieson (book and lyrics) and Mike Tarantino (music and lyrics) have brought to the page. The entire cast does fine work, each with moments to shine. Loris Diran is fantastic as Freitas, who sings his way to double-crossing Buddy’s "Staff," serving to bring the administration down.

With everyone playing multiple roles, it’s easy to lose the lines between them, but here with the help of smooth costume design and changes, and simple but appropriate scenic design, the actors make clear choices that bring each character to life. Under the guiding hand of director Dean Strober, all have clearly worked well together, taking "Buddy" one strong step toward realizing its full potential.

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