No, it’s not about Darth Vader or Cookie Lyon, as you might think. EMPIRE, THE MUSICAL is about the Empire State Building’s construction and it’s a big, flashy, old-fashioned musical with a star-making turn. Stephanie Gibson (She was one of the Step-Sisters in the recent Broadway production of CINDERELLA) plays Frankie Peterson, a 1940’s style Girl Friday (although the show’s setting is 1929-1931) displaying sharp comedic timing, a great belt and excellent dancing. She easily wins over the audience and of course, the male lead, because after all, this is an old-fashioned musical.
EMPIRE has a stunning set that is a collaboration between David Gallo (Scenic/Co-Projection) and Brad Peterson (Co-Projection) that actually gives the impression of a building being erected. Book, Music & Lyrics are by Caroline Sherman and Robert Hull, who serve the music and lyrics well and hopefully the secondary characters will get some fleshing out before this show hits New York.
My biggest quibble is with Marcia Milgrom Dodge’s Choreography and Direction. There are more than a couple of moments when the emotions of the text did not ring true and it wasn’t the fault of the writing. Scenes and dance numbers need more shape and to build to an effective resolution. A lot of reality was lost as the excellent cast strained to keep up with the breakneck pace. I understand that the show was put together on a short rehearsal schedule, so maybe more time would help. Now playing at the La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts.