It’s always remarkable to see how the historic Swift Creek Mill Theatre can turn its tiny stage into a great big world. With extraordinary performers, clever costume and set designs, plus lighting, music, and choreography that transform the mood and space, it’s easy for audience members to lose themselves in a wonderful story when they settle into their seats.
Swift Creek Mill’s current production, BKLYN: The Musical, is a perfect example of this. A play within a play, it’s the story of a young French woman on a mission – as told by a group of street performers called the City Weeds, in the shadow of the Brooklyn Bridge. It takes the audience across decades, from the late 60s to the new millennium, from Paris to New York with a stop in war-torn Vietnam.
Lindy Pokorny stands out as Brooklyn, a Paris-born singer whose only knowledge of her absent father is that her namesake is his hometown. As the story unfolds, and she makes her way to New York in hopes of finding him, her voice fluctuates from a charming Disney-princess clarity to a soaring intensity that conveys the character’s mixture of bewilderment and hope.
Balancing this sentimental sweetness is a big dose of moxie from Desiree Dabney as Paradice, the reigning songstress of New York whose diva status is threatened by this French newcomer. The character’s indignation is unmistakable in Dabney’s vibrant, booming voice, and in her hilarious side-eyes and verbal jabs.
Kamaron Carter is memorable as Faith, the French dancer whose romance with an American traveler led to Brooklyn’s birth. Her voice ascends through many of the show’s two-dozen songs, including one in which she pulls of a feat of acrobatics that made the audience gasp.
Then there is Taylor, the Brooklyn-born musician whose abrupt departure from Paris leaves Faith pregnant and heartbroken. Michael McMullen’s resonant voice brings this complicated character to life across a span of years, as the love-struck young traveler and the battle-weary soldier.
It would be easy to forget that all these characters are being played by street performers, but the narration of a character known simply as Streetsinger serves as a narrator of sorts. Played impressively by Dorothy Dee-D Miller, Streetsinger’s rich, warm voice guides the show’s audience through the tale,and its characters through some tough spots.
There is also some inventive costuming to remind us that all of this is being performed by buskers on a Brooklyn corner: Most notably, at the “Battle of the Divas” showdown between Brooklyn and Paradice, their elegant evening gowns are fashioned out of garbage bags, construction sheeting and barricade tape. When Paradice swishes onto the scene in a Tyvek dress that celebrates the “pair o’ dice” behind her name, it’s as impressive as any red-carpet frock.
Speaking of buskers, on your way into the theatre you might be offered a handful of golden coins. Take a few! You might be invited by one of the City Weeds, hat in hand, to express your appreciation for their performance. And at this show, you won’t want to be caught empty-handed.
Run-time is approximately an hour and forty minutes with no intermission. BKLYN The Musical is recommended for ages thirteen and up.
BKLYN The Musical is showing at Swift Creek through February 17. Visit the website for showtimes, tickets, and more information about pre-show dining, which includes a three-course meal inspired by the setting of the current show.