Music, Romance and A License to Kill: Spies Are Forever
Back in the Swinging 1960s, one genre stood for the spirit of the time: the spy thriller. The coolest of all the cats, the spy could drink, gamble and romance women as he traveled the world. No criminal mastermind, whether Nazi, Soviet or freelancer, could defeat this globetrotting hero. While James Bond was the best-known spy hero, there were others from Michael Caine‘s Harry Palmer to James Coburn‘s Derek Flint, the first spoof of the genre. A half-century after the spies dominated the box office and the imagination, what more could (or needed to) be said about them?
To answer this “who asked for it” question we turn to mad comedy masterminds known as the Tin Can Brothers and a songwriting duo, TalkFine. A trio of writers, the “Brothers” (Brian Rosenthal, Joey Richter & Corey Lubowich) and TalkFine (Clark Baxtresser & Pierce Siebers) discovered a fresh way to say something new: music. With a full score of Broadway-style singing and dancing, their play “Spies Are Forever” sends up the genre with laughs and leg kicks. After a successful Kickstarter campaign to fund the show, it is finishing its world premiere at the NoHo Arts Center in North Hollywood this weekend. Spoofing its spies with affection, the play makes for an entertaining look back at the day when espionage was cool.
The play opens with the failure of Curt Mega, the most successful of American spies (played by actor Curt Mega – no, I’m not kidding) to save his partner as a mission goes wrong. Devastated, Curt grows a flowing beard and drops out of the spy game. Four years later, he is brought back to foil a plot involving Nazis, a bomb and an isolated European nation, The New Democratic Republic of Old Socialist Prussian-Sloviskia. Curt also finds himself up against his arch-nemesis, The Deadliest Man Alive (Joseph Walker). This assignment may be too big for our hero to carry out alone (especially since he can be a bit of a dim bulb at times).
Fortunately, he has help from a beautiful Soviet spy, Tatiana Slozhno (Mary Kate Wiles). An ice-cold killer, Tatiana may be falling for Curt, a romance encouraged by Curt’s mother (Lauren Lopez) who longs to see her son settle down with a nice spy. Curt and Tatiana must work together even though they do not trust each other. In doing so, they must answer the question: cam love and saving the world go together?
For a small play in a black-box theater way off-Broadway, this show feels like one ready for the Great White Way. In large part this is due to the many wonderful production numbers. Making creative use of a multi-level stage layout, there are many show-stopping production numbers. The title song works as a tribute to the danger and commitment required to work in espionage. For the romance subplot, the intimate “Doing This” (sung by Curt and Tatiana) reveals the attraction and doubt between spies who may have to commit to something besides saving the world. Also excellent is the full-scale production number “One More Shot.” Thanks not only to the song lyrics but the choreography by Lauren Lopez, this is one small play screaming for a cast album.
The cast gives off a bit of a “hey, let’s put on a show” vibe that works. Most play more than one character. Some, like Lopez, Rosenthal and Richter, add acting to their other duties on the production. Lubowich, the third book writer, directs while lyricists Baxtresser and Siebers are members of the house band accompanying the show. If you missed the run in North Hollywood, part of the Kickstarter campaign raised funds to post a recording of the play on YouTube later this year or early in 2017. No matter how you see it, “Spies Are Forever” makes for a fond, funny look at the enduring appeal of the spy.
– Louis Burklow (aka, Hollywood Country Boy), Senior Staff Writer, Phoenix Genesis
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