Review of The Wrong Man, starring Joshua Henry, at MCC Theater

  • Our critic's rating:
    Date:
    October 9, 2019
    Review by:

    If you’re looking for one show to see this season, The Wrong Man at MCC Theater is the right choice! It’s a theatrical unicorn; innovative, moving and perfectly realized. Don’t wait until it moves to Broadway, which it will undoubtedly do. See it in the intimate setting of the Robert W. Wilson MCC Theater Space on West 52nd Street where you can see every expression on Joshua Henry’s face as he sings the compelling narrative of the story.

    With book, music and lyrics by Ross Golan, The Wrong Man is being billed as a musical, but it’s closer to a rock/dance opera. There are no spoken words and the story is told through both song and dance. Set in Reno, Nevada, The Wrong Man is the tale of Duran (Joshua Henry), a man accused of a crime he did not commit. It started as a song written in 2005 by Ross Golan, the prolific multi-platinum songwriter for such artists as Ariana Grande, Justin Bieber, Maroon 5, Charlie Puth, Flo Rida, Lady Antebellum, Selena Gomez, P!nk, Michael Bublé, Idina Menzel and more. A self-confessed “murder ballad” aficionado, he decided to write one about a man wrongly accused of the deed. When he started playing it for people, it became one of his most requested songs, so he started writing the backstory in that format as well. Although he never recorded any of the songs in the tale, it became popular enough that people would fly him all over to sing the cycle.

    Fast forward 14 years and Ross Golan has picked up some impressive collaborators for The Wrong Man as a theater piece. Taking the helm as director is Tony and Emmy award winner Thomas Kail, known for directing Hamilton and In the Heights for the theater, and "Grease: Live" and the special series "Fosse/Verdon" for television. Music Supervision, arrangements and orchestrations are by Alex Lacamoire who won Tony, Grammy and Emmy awards for his work on Hamilton, In the Heights and "Fosse/Verdon," collaborating with Thomas Kail previously. New to the mix is choreographer Travis Wall, known not only for competing on TV’s "So You Think You Can Dance" on the 2nd season, but subsequent Emmy award-winning stints as choreographer on that show and others.

    Golan’s music for The Wrong Man is seductive and memorable. Two days later and I am still humming some of the songs. His lyrics are also remarkable, conveying worlds with phrases. And Joshua Henry’s delivery, aside from being emotionally distinct for each song, is crystal clear. I heard and understood every word which is rare. Mr. Henry is the very definition of a triple threat. He’s not just a great singer, he’s a nuanced and expressive actor and a fine dancer as well. This role allows him the scope to put all his talents to good use.

    The synergy between the entire creative team, Golan, Kail, Lacamoire, and Wall, creates a seamless piece that flows effortlessly and with great impact. Wall’s insightful choreography and the amazingly talented ensemble of dancers who enact the story through it, and his use of the principals is so precise and revealing, that dialogue is truly unnecessary when combined with Golan’s music and lyrics. And Kail’s deft and unencumbered staging provides the perfect frame for the story.

    (Photo by Matthew Murphy)

    "It’s not that The Wrong Man strays from the spine-tingling elements it establishes at its beginning. On the contrary, it hews to them with an unchanging insistence that ultimately drains them of their power. The show keeps reiterating its central premise, without grounding a dark conceit with the details that would give it gooseflesh-and-blood existence."
    Ben Brantley for New York Times

    "Some storytelling slack is picked up by Travis Wall’s excellent choreography—a slashing pas de deux between dancers Tilly Evans-Krueger and Kyle Robinson is especially memorable—and the supremely gifted Henry sings about half of the score himself, adding interest and ardor to material that too often only recaps what we already know. You may find yourself wishing that Henry could escape. He’s the right man in the right place in the wrong show."
    Adam Feldman for Time Out New York

    "Ross Golan’s score is very much the right score for his new musical, The Wrong Man, which opened Monday at Off Broadway’s MCC Theater. There hasn’t been original music this arresting on the New York stage since David Yazbek’s The Band’s Visit opened off Broadway two years ago."
    Robert Hofler for The Wrap

    "The good news is that three-time Tony nominated performer Joshua Henry is currently delivering a wonderful concert in the intimate confines of an off-Broadway theater. The bad news is that the show he's in, The Wrong Man, is supposed to be musical theater."
    Frank Scheck for Hollywood Reporter

    "Credit songwriter Ross Golan for the seamless quality of The Wrong Man, his mesmerizing musical about a good man who deserves a good life but seems to attract nothing but bad luck... Think of this one as immersive theater with great music."
    Marilyn Stasio for Variety