When the stress of the week takes over, any valuable surprise is a welcome one. Luckily, music and theater patrons were gifted a rare treat with the Off-Broadway production, For What It’s Worth. It was a short performance blending the spirit of an actor’s emotion with spoken notes from various instruments. Composed by award-winning musical director, Seth Weaver, and conceived by jazz artist, Chris Bayon, the show is a lover’s tale with the power of music at the helm.
Despite the remaining cool breeze still blowing through the city streets, the warm sunshine gave guests a wonderful walk to SoHo for the musical journey that night. Arriving at Theatre 80 St. Marks, viewers enter a narrow doorway to will call. After picking up the green tickets, audience members were guided to a small, yet classy, side bar for some cocktails before the show. A giant mirror hung on the wall behind the bar and antique bar items, such a fragile model ships, harps and fading play posters, were spread across the room. A lingering and boisterous mingling crowd hung in clumps eager for seating to be granted for the last performance of the production. It was an intimate and vibrant group of folks. Excitement hung in the air.
Once seating was allowed, the crowd dispersed quickly to claim their general admission spots. A drafty dark stage area opened up to people snagging lipstick red cotton seats. The wide black stage spread out in front with a market scene complete with a flower stand and objects that would later be used for the percussion. Loud chatter permeated the room and the anticipation ran high. Finally, after the call to turn off cell phones came, the show was set to begin.
Out walked the male protagonist of the show sporting a perfect Rich Uncle mustache and carrying a trumpet. With a conscious gaze left and right, the man sat down in a chair in the center of the stage to belch out a jazzy solo number with his horn. He is riddled with mild dirt and wears casual street clothing reminiscent of gypsies. Eventually, several other men of this clan appear and take up residence with the objects on stage left and right to start a pairing percussion session alongside the trumpet. A third percussionist plays a metal garbage can in the back. An epic drum battle ensues and more horn players join the fray. His rag-tag family take over the stage and the camaraderie is struck. In full New Orleans style marching and synchronized dance, the trumpet, french horn, trombone and saxophone are introduced to all. It is a mesh of exploding sound. Mixed harmonies and intermittent duels continue in what seems to be constant musical conversation. The only neutral musician was the electric bassist who played along with everyone in the back in his own cool world.
Suddenly, the cacophony is interrupted by a group of string musicians who are crisp and clean as they walk by with noses in the air. One of the violin players, the female protagonist, makes eye-contact with the trumpet lead and the star-crossed lovers are set. Between the two of them, a musical theme is created, but not perfected. An obvious separation and immediate dislike is shown between the two musical groups as they battle with their music back and forth. Reminiscent of today’s apparent separation of classical and jazz, the musician’s dichotomy was not far from the mark. The heated division keeps the lovers from being with one another and to complete their symphony. The only thing that grew was constant musical arguments and debates.
Eventually, the lovers flee together as the families are distracted while fighting. Peace is brought by none other than a child who wields a hybrid violin with a horn attached. The acceptance and marvel of love takes over and the collective unit comes together for the biggest musical party on stage. Love wins yet again.
It is worth noting that no verbal words are spoken throughout the entire show. Each musician on stage held a tight control of their chosen instrument. If the music did not impress viewers, the facial acting and choreographed dancing did. For example, the man on upright bass was able to play and even jumped onto the instrument at the same time for a number that had seasoned musicians in the crowd drop their jaws in shock. The same musician would introduce the blues with his harmonica as he changed his thoughts on the romantic dilemma. Even the percussionists chose brooms to bang across the floor in their musical dance at times just for the hell of it. Each song had power and grace behind. There was no delay of musical impact from them all. Swing and jazz held the genre field for this performance with some classical music as well. Emotional energy matched the music beautifully with glee and sorrow being expressed with ease. Human transference was apparent with each transition within the music at hand for the ultimate spirit of the musical arts.