Bastard Jones

The cast of Bastard Jones, a new musical by Marc Acito and Amy Engelhardt, forms a triangular composition around lead Evan Ruggiero. Original photo by Carol Rosegg.

By Andrew Andrews

It looks like this is our weekend for fun, new-yet-historical off-off-Broadway musicals! Friday night, we headed down under the Manhattan Bridge for HISSIFIT. Saturday, it was west to The Cell in Chelsea for Bastard Jones. This was our first visit to The Cell—a converted old low-rise building on West 23rd that’s not quite brownstone, not quite carriage house—and the first thing that impressed us was their creative adaptation of the space and effective combination of risers and mixed-height seating to provide an almost stadium-style viewing experience. But as we quickly learned, the elements of surprise and delight didn’t stop there!

Chock full of ribaldry, sleight-of-hand and double entendres, Bastard Jones is hard to pin down, but easy to enjoy. Try to imagine what could happen if Trey Parker & Matt Stone attempted to adapt Michael Pataki’s Cinderella into a live-action musical directed by Looney Tunes’ Friz Freleng and Chuck Jones, and you might have some idea of what’s in store. And the history of The History of Tom Jones is itself very surprising, making the experience even harder to explain!

You won’t quite be pulled into the story in this adaptation, but let’s be honest: a musical is a showcase of its talent, and this production has no shortage of that! As Partridge, Rene Ruiz warms up the audience before the curtain officially rises and keeps that momentum rolling through the end of the show. Crystal Lucas-Perry transforms from a stiff-as-a-board mannequin to the sultry Lady Bellaston, with curves that don’t stop and a voice that doesn’t falter. And the remainder of the cast—Allie B. Gorrie, Adam B. Shapiro, Matthew McGloin, Tony Perry, Cheryl Stern and Elena Wang—deliver their farce as precisely as their vocals, as individuals as well as a company.

The real star of this show, however, is Evan Ruggiero, a one-legged man playing a three-legged character, skilled not only as an actor and a singer, but a dancer with a twist—an acrobat who at one moment can make you completely forget his prosthesis before very intentionally drawing your attention to it as a prop only seconds later! And speaking of props: although we’re not sure whom to credit, we were also quite impressed by the cast’s many ways of applying a mere handful of common household items in an infinite variety of ways. Ever see a dining table double as a stage coach? Here, you will. Coat racks as lamp posts? More effective than you might imagine!

The History of Tom Jones might not be quite as old as that of Medusa, but as with last night’s HISSIFIT, The Cell’s production of Bastard Jones proves that some stories never cease to entertain, regardless of the passing of time. And with all ticket proceeds donated to Cyndi Lauper’s True Colors Fund, you might have even more reason to attend. We’ll almost guarantee this show will have you shouting, “Yes! Oh, Yes!” before the curtain falls, so check it out, then come back here and let us know. Whether you like it, love it, or it isn’t quite your cup of tea (with crumpets, as the gentry might say!), your reviews help others decide if they should attend, and your ratings help us help you find other events and activities you’ll love!

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Andrew Andrews attended Bastard Jones at Nancy Manocherian's The Cell in New York on Saturday, June 17, 2017 @ 9:00pm to write this review.

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