With strong reviews in San Diego behind it, Joyful Noise, a comical look at the first performance of Handel's "Messiah," transfers to New York City's Lamb's Theatre Feb. 11 for a run through March 18. Tim Slover's play with music is directed by Lamb's Players artistic director Robert Smyth. In 1741, it seemed as if George Frederick Handel couldn't overcome his failures. His operas flopped, he owed money, his champion patron Queen Caroline was dead, and he himself suffered from a chronic illness. Then the "Messiah" manuscript arrived. But all was not glory and light. Instead, Handel lost the patronage of King George II, and a sex scandal involving one of his sopranos nearly prevented the London debut of his work, as the church's bishops fought to prevent "unclean" actors and singers from performing in the sacred work.
Joyful Noise includes snippets of "The Messiah" and the famed "Hallelujah Chorus." Slover's other works are the Hopwood Award winner The Dreambuilder and New Dramatists Weissberger Award nominee March Tale.
Tom Stephenson stars as Handel, with Mary Miller and Deborah Gilmour Smyth as his chosen soloists, Susannah Cibber and Kitty Clive. Also in the cast are Paul Eggington, Dorian Elias, David Cochran Heath, Linda Bush, Jason Makiaris, K.B. Mercer and Ted McCann.
David Thayer designed the sets and lighting; Jeanne Reith, the costumes and Greg Campbell, the sound.
Lamb's Theatre is located at 130 West 44th Street. For tickets, call (212) 239-6200. Joyful Noise is on the web at http://www.lambsplayers.org/joyful.html.
-- By Christine Ehren