[Image via Dave Bedrosian/Future Image/WENN.]
With a title like Murder Ballad, you'd expect that that show to be HIGH STAKES! Unfortunately, the musical currently playing at Manhattan Theater Club does not live up to its title. Complicated Love Story would have been a more appropriate title and worked more in the show's favor.
Murder Ballad has a lot going for it, but it also has a lot that hinders the production.
The choice to make the show completely sung through - like an opera - made it really difficult to connect with the characters and their motivations. If the show is ever done again, we'd strongly suggest adding a book!
The best thing Murder Ballad has going for it are the songs - by Juliana Nash and Julia Jordon. And for a musical, the songs being your strongest attribute is a really good thing! Having said that, though, while the songs are really really good - they did start to sound a bit the same. And, with no dialogue, the songs started to blend into one long song. In addition to adding dialogue, we'd recommend future incarnations of the show have a band with more instruments and different/better orchestrations.
The cast, featuring Will Swenson and Karen Olivo, all delivered solid performances. And, especially enjoyable was the direction by Trip Cullman and his use of the great and intimate theater space, as well as the choreography by Doug Varone.
If you're a fan of Jason Robert Brown and his sensibility and go into Murder Ballad with that in mind, then you will find the show a very enjoyable experience!