Off Broadway Reviews
The backstory of how Ross Golan's The Wrong Man became a musical was detailed in an excellent piece by Lisa Fung last month in the Los Angeles Times. An award-winning singer-songwriter, the 39-year old Golan is best known today as a songwriter for music heavyweights like: Nicki Minaj, Selena Gomez, Ariana Grande, Flo Rida, Maroon 5, PINK, Michael Bublé and Lady Antebellum. But back in 2004, before success knocked at his door, he released his first album, Reagan Baby, as a struggling singer. He was three years out of college. That same year he started writing songs for a follow-up album, one of which was "The Wrong Man" which became popular with fans despite the fact it wasn't on an album. Following the financial crash of 2008, Golan completed half of what would become The Wrong Man album and started playing it for people in their living rooms and kitchens.
It was at one of these living room parties theater producer Suzi Dietz heard The Wrong Man and suggested to Golan that he stage it as a musical theatre piece. In 2014 he did just that, at a tiny theatre in Los Feliz where it won three Ovation Awards. But Golan still hadn't recorded an album for The Wrong Man songs. When he finally went into a recording studio in L.A. for that purpose, he met Kurt Deutsch who specializes in theatrical projects for Warner/Chappell Music. Deutsch arranged for Golan to perform the piece for theater executives in New York and introduced him to director Kail, who was just starting work on the brilliant Fosse/Verdon series for FX. Kail then shared it with Lacamoire, and then Kail & Lacamoire shared it with Joshua Henry, and the results opened October 7 at MCC's Newman Mills Theater. And did I mention an animated version of The Wrong Man had its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival in April?
Golan's music, a generous mix of pop, hip-hop, rap and rock, is entertaining, especially as sung by Henry, Renée and Vasquez. But it's hard not to come away from The Wrong Man thinking Duran's story has been over-produced by Kail and his talented production team. Wall's choreography is as artsy' as it is relentless, and exhaustion sets in before the shows tacked-on message about our society's unfair prosecution of minority's registers. The ensemble works hard and it's a pleasure to watch them. But it's a shame all their polished efforts are in service to a story that defies credulity. A prime example: after the Man in Black tracks down Duran to frame him, he shoots a homeless man in the back of the head in an alley and then drops the gun he used in the lap of Duran. But the Man in Black isn't wearing gloves so his prints would be on the gun as well as Duran's. And since he had a police record and Mariana had a restraining order against him, he would have been the prime suspect in the case. Nitpicking? Perhaps, but it's an easily fixable problem the production overlooks. More problematic is Golan's liberal coopting of the Las Vegas tagline, "what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas" for The Wrong Man's setting of Reno, Nevada. There is no tagline, "what happens in Reno, stays in Reno," no matter how much Golan wishes there was. Perhaps it's easier to rhyme words with Reno instead of with Vegas, but why not just set the show in Vegas?
The Wrong Man