REVIEW, THEATRE IS EASY.com, February 14
by Keith Paul Medelis on 2.4.17
BOTTOM LINE: The Battles is a musical version of the behind-the-scenes story that (perhaps) inspired some of the greatest works of art.
You may have never heard of this story, but you’ve certainly heard of the artists Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo. While I’m sure there’s a great deal of artistic license here, Ned Massey’s compelling story paints (and sculpts) Salai (Dyllon Burnside), the lover of da Vinci (playwright Massey), as the inspiration for Michelangelo’s (Joel Perez) famous statue of David. At the end of the first act we’re treated to a depiction of the inspirational sitting for the David sculpture. Massey offers us a lover’s quarrel between da Vinci and Salai, and Salai’s sitting for Michelangelo comes after a “chance” encounter in a bar. Payback is a bitch.
Characterized as a beautiful fuck boy with as much passion as sex drive, Salai fits right alongside the queens you love to hate on Looking, or, like, just about any over-produced reality show. So they tell me. The famous battles between these two great artists, lending themselves to the show’s title, are in fact much more personal here. And it works.
If you’re like me, however, you’ll wonder why musical theatre was the right medium for this story. Maybe you’ll wonder why, when two people are locked in a lovely moment, they have to cheat out to belt the high notes. Or why every number has to be a showstopper. But for the true-to-form musical lovers out there (you know who you are) The Battles is just the show for you.
Where the show fits the classic mold, it also notably departs from convention. For one, it’s unapologetically, refreshingly queer—restoring sensuality to the lives of notable historical figures Leonardo da Vinci, Salai, and Michelangelo. How often do we roll our eyes and just want the guys to kiss like the “sodomites” they are? The show’s word, not mine. This story is intimate and relatable.
Second, its grandiose figures are offered a sleeker, modern alternative with The Battles. The language feels fresh, the songs are appropriately R-rated, and the scenes play out on a simplified design with a contemporary score. The scenic design (from Stephen Dobay) serves up some IKEA Malm bed realness (you know the one) and the electric guitar is twanging at the all the places you expect it to be. The costume design, of earth tones, is one-part Lululemon, one-part H&M; the Renaissance garb occasionally tossed on play off this trendy, off-the rack gear nicely. Even da Vinci has a fashionable hair cut.
Perhaps it’s too sleek and intimate for the collection of showstoppers that the score wants to be. Or maybe this cast, with their assorted Broadway credits, are just craving a larger house than the Gym at Judson can provide. Although I suspect The Battles will be fought again soon after this workshop staging—I’ll make the prediction here: coming to a medium sized Off Broadway stage near you, followed by a cult-classic album that Jersey teenagers will sing for years to come.
(The Battles played at Gym at Judson, 243 Thompson Street, through February 4, 2017. The show is now closed. More information can be found at thebattlesmusical.com.)
REVIEW, HI DRAMA, Jan 31
LESLIE DILEO REVIEWS THE BATTLES written by Ned Massey, Directed by Emily Hartford, Music Director/Orchestrator/Vocal Arrangements: Joshua Stephen Kartes
In the musical THE BATTLES, Leonard DaVinci (Ned Massey) reviews his life from his deathbed: reliving his many struggles: to make a living through his art, to reconcile his peace-loving nature with his invention of war weapons, and to embrace his forbidden homosexuality and love for 17-year old male hustler Salai (Dyllon Burnside).
He also reflects on the intense war-mural competition against his arch rival, Michaelangelo (Joel Perez) who badmouths him all over Florence and will stoop to bribery, theft and seduction to try to beat him.
Every element of this show reflects top quality talent and care: the song lyrics are poignant and witty, and the music is stirring and melodic. The supporting cast members, playing historical figures like Machiavelli and Borgia as well as local townspeople and bar flies, infuse the show with infectious commitment: and the singing is soulful across the board.
Ned Massey, who fits the image of the elegant DaVinci down to his hands, has written a show that is heartfelt, lively and moving, and the direction, choreography and musical direction are assured. Joel Perez as Michaelangelo is noble-looking and handsome: at times a humble artist in the service of God, and at others, arrogant, dismissive and underhanded. Dyllon Burnside as Salai is sassy, swaggering and tender.
Subtitled “The Freedom to Love, the Courage to Be”, THE BATTLES is a clever, sophisticated musical with a lot of heart.
HAPPY FACE PLUS
Broadway World announces the premier production of The Battles, featuring Joel Perez and Dyllon Burnside, Jan 27 – Feb 4, 2017, at The Gym at Judson Theater, 243 Thompson St. http://www.broadwayworld.com/article/FUN-HOMEs-Joel-Perez-to-Lead-Workshop-of-Ned-Masseys-New-Musical-THE-BATTLES-20161206
The Battles to have its premier production at the Gym at Judson, January 27 – February 4, 2017! More news to come!
Broadway producer Ken Davenport has selected The Battles as one of his Top-Ten Unproduced Scripts of 2016!
The Battles was selected to receive a one-week developmental workshop at The Finger Lakes Musical Theatre Festival’s 2016 “The Pitch” series.
The Battles has its second developmental reading in October of 2015 at The New 42nd St. Studios in NYC, featuring Nathan Lee Graham (Zoolander), Joel Perez (FunHome), and Heath Saunders (Great Comet).
The Battles receives its first developmental reading in NYC, selected to be part of The Emerging Artists Theater’s New Works Series in May of 2015.https://www.facebook.com/plugins/post.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fhidramas%2Fposts%2F1376348512405059&width=500