Nothing comes between a man and his music, but maybe something should.
Directed with a stirring cadence by Russell R. Greene, Theater Uncorked presented Warren Leight’s Sideman for a limited engagement from May 3-7 live and in person at Boston Center for the Arts Plaza Theatre in Boston, Massachusetts. The show was two hours with one 15 minute intermission and is not for children. Click here for more information and what is next for Theater Uncorked.
A ‘sideman’ in jazz terms refers to a member of a jazz or swing orchestra. The term not only applies to Brad Michael Pickett as trumpet player Gene, but his loyal sidemen which include Leonard Chasse as Al, James Hunt as Ziggy, and an impressive Phil Thompson as troubled Jonesy. Gene’s band mates demonstrate an easy rapport and an unshakable and stalwart camaraderie as they bond into the wee hours over music, love, and the unstable life of the musician. Accompanied by Jennifer Shotkin in an invigorating performance as warm and wisecracking waitress Patsy, they seem far more like family to the dismay of the rest of Gene’s actual family.
From the viewpoint of Ben Gold as Gene’s son Clifford, Sideman is a unique memoir about Clifford’s dysfunctional family that matured him far too early. It delves into the excitement, seeming glamour, and the alarming upheaval in the pursuit of music that can leave madness for many in its wake.
Sideman offers dark and humorous moments in a jazz style storyline that culminates in intensity as quickly as it mellows. Delivered with dry wit, some notable deadpan expressions, and occasional despondence by Ben Gold, this ambitious show covers a lot of territory during an over 30 year timeline that rides the height of NYC jazz to its gradual decline. Short sided and neglectful Gene is more impressed by an unemployment check than an actual job while Clifford’s fast talking, hotheaded, and unraveling mother Terry, a rich and scathing performance by Shana Dirik, would rather let her ambitions and heartaches override her responsibilities. Brad Michael Pickett as Gene and Shana Dirik as Terry deliver some stunning scenes together that zip between star struck and fed up. All Clifford wants is a sense of normalcy, but that might be a tall order.
From a distinct black and white Marilyn Monroe poster, neon lights, wood paneled walls, afghan quilts, and authentic vintage furniture, Shana Dirik with lighting designer Erik Fox steeps the viewer into multiple eras with a wealth of retro charm. Warren Leight’s script delves into the jazz era harkening to epic musical heights from Sinatra at the Copa to Neon Leon to Elvis’s performance on the Ed Sullivan Show driven by Tim Rose’s lively and reflective sound design.
Sideman is in many ways a toast to jazz, but is also about family. To become great requires sacrifice and yet there is something amiss about this band’s journey. Warren Leight’s characters accomplish a great feat in that most of his characters are still likable even through their selfish and undeniable blind ambition. Sympathetic and compassionate, Gold’s Clifford is a character worth rooting for as he navigates through this musical journey full of wild predicaments.
Theater Uncorked presented Warren Leight’s Sideman for a limited engagement from May 3-7 live and in person at Boston Center for the Arts Plaza Theatre in Boston, Massachusetts. Click here for more information and what is next for Theater Uncorked.