A Life…A Broad
nytheatre.com review by Debbie Hoodiman
February 7, 2005
The subtitle of Melanie Rey’s musical, A Life…A Broad, “mi vida en jira,” translates to “My Life on Tour.” This subtitle is significant in several ways: Rey’s adopted father takes her family on tour as he competes in golf tournaments; Rey tours Europe in college, where she hilariously meets a man from each of several countries and asks herself an important question about each; and Rey’s show provides a tour through her life so far, from her early childhood in Texas with her grandparents and her mother to her college days, her search for love, and beyond all that to the present moment in the finale, where she sings to the audience, “vive el momento (live the moment)."
Like so many autobiographical shows, Rey’s play begins with her early childhood. She plays several characters and sings twelve original songs for which she wrote the lyrics and Rob Arthur wrote the music. A five-piece band accompanies Rey onstage: Rich Mercurio (drums and musical director), Tom Murray (sax), Marcus Wolf (lead guitar and some vocals), Denise Puricelli (keyboards), and Chris Smylie (bass). In addition to the music, the musicians provide sound effects and have a few lines, but this is essentially a one-woman show.
Rey sings low, jazzy songs, higher, soprano notes, and a few rock songs. Her voice is playful, expressive, and beautiful, and her strongest moments came from her singing. As an actress and performer, Rey is charming and funny, often flirtatious and playful. She also has a lot of sincerity and heart.
During the course of the show, her energy builds and her story becomes more engaging. I estimate that about 20% of the script is Spanish. One of my favorite moments is when she tells the story of why her grandmother has to move all the time. Rey uses large gestures and repetition and explains in Spanish that another woman was in love with her grandfather and put a curse on her grandmother. I was able to understand the story and enjoyed its significance as one of those family stories that are passed on to children, told repeatedly, and which build a sense of belonging in a family. Other stories, such as how her father didn’t want to stop on the road when they were traveling, seemed to have less significance. Though the story is humorous and does illustrate her parents’ relationship, it probably could have been left out.
Because A Life…A Broad spans so many years and points in Rey's development, it lacks some focus. She jumps around from place to place, telling and singing of incidents that were important to her but not necessarily exploring her life with any real depth. Still, she is a talented performer, and her likeability and talent work towards tying the play together.