At 91, composer John Kander has lost none of his gift for melodies or his power to enchant. “The Beast in the Jungle,” which opened Wednesday at Off Broadway’s Vineyard Theatre, boasts a lush and romantic score from the man who delivered Broadway classics like “Cabaret” and “Chicago.”
And his efforts are matched by the athletic and sometimes sexy dancing of Tony Yazbeck and Irina Dvorovenko, who play the star-crossed couple at the center of this new “dance play.”
Susan Stroman both directs and choreographs the show, which follows a young American playboy named John Marcher (Yazbeck) and a Russian woman (Dvorovenko) who sees right through him when they first meet in 1968 Russia — and almost manages to break through his trauma-hardened reserve when they hook up again 20 years later.
Yes, John Marcher is another one of those American men with an overriding failure to commit to a relationship — only in his case, it’s embodied physically as the “beast” of the title, and on stage by a variety of clever stage devices.
Full credit to Michael Curry’s scenic and costume design, with its deployment of puppetry and even bolts of cloth to enchanting effect. And Ben Stanton’s lighting is a revelation, adding new layers of meaning and heightening key moments.
But for all the stunning visuals and the spirited and balletic movement of the talented cast, “The Beast in the Jungle” remains steadily earthbound when it comes to David Thompson’s book.
Read the rest of my review at TheWrap.