*Paradise Square,* April 1, 2022
Richard and I saw *Paradise Square* on Broadway on April 1, 2022. It's a new musical with music by Jason Howland, lyrics by Nathan Tysen and Masi Asare, a book by Christina Anderson, Craig Lucas, and Larry Kirwan, and conceived by Kirwan. Most impressively, it's directed by Moisés Kaufman with choreography by Bill T. Jones.
The setting is the Five Points neighborhood of New York City in the time leading up to the Civil War. The central location is a bar called Paradise Square, run by a Black woman named Nelly O'Brien, who's married to an Irishman. The show is about the camaraderie and conflicts between the Irish and Black communities, their collective struggle with the white assholes in charge of the city, and how they all deal with the Civil War.
It was a very strong show - - it moved forward with drive, the transitions from dialogue to song were always well-handled, the music had great variety. Everything about it was first class and beautifully thought out. If I could make one quibble, it would be that there were too many songs in the second act that had a big, dramatic finish. That happened about five or six times and it gets tiresome after a while. The leading lady, the extraordinary Joaquina Kalukango, had a show-stopping 11:00 number and it would have had even more impact if things had been paced better.
The choreography was fantastic. Jones came up with precise dancing styles to define the Irish and Black communities. This added greatly to the storytelling and the dancers were all very talented.
I'll mention one other performance - - Nathaniel Stampley as the leading lady's brother-in-law, the Reverend Samuel Jacob Lewis. Nate is a good friend from college and I've seen him in many shows, on Broadway and off Broadway. He's such a gifted performer and it was a thrill to see him in a leading role in a new Broadway musical. He sang with great beauty, he acted with grace, conviction, and sincerity. I would be impressed with him even if he wasn't my friend.
Here's a collection of clips from the Chicago pre-Broadway tryout. Nate is the handsome Black guy in the black suit with the big black bow around his neck.