nytheatre.com review by Martin Denton
March 11, 2006
A musical version of Herman Hesse's novel Siddhartha is no more far-fetched than, say, a musical about Charlemagne's little-known son Pepin; but Andrew Frank and Doug Silver's toneless coming-of-age show Sidd feels misbegotten alongside Pippin, the now sort-of classic Bob Fosse show that Sidd resembles in a number of ways. Both shows depict young men who set out on journeys of self-discovery, visiting a variety of strange and exotic places before settling down in homely surroundings. More to the point, both feature bland title characters who are by definition less interesting than the folks they encounter (and let me note up front that Manu Narayan, recently of Bombay Dreams and added to this cast late in previews, does a valiant job trying to overcome the script's deficiencies in terms of providing him with a suitable starring role).
Of course, Pippin had Fosse's masterly sense of style to provide unity and pizzazz; Sidd, while nodding in one unsuccessful scene to Fosse, has virtually no coherent sense of anything going for it. Besides the jazzy dance sequence that finds its ensemble donning bowler hats and sashaying across the stage like fugitives from Chicago, Sidd has a comic second-act opener that could have been written for Avenue Q, a lengthy climactic musical sequence that reminds us of Sondheim, and an anthemic closing number that repeats the protagonist's mantra "We are always on the way" as often as Rent's finale repeats "No day but today."
The problem is that very little on view here suggests that authors Silver or Frank actually believe in the enlightenment that their hero acquires (as opposed to Rent, which positively brims with Jonathan Larson's life-affirming faith). Sidd limps along like a made-to-order 21st century musical comedy, borrowing forms and gamely entertaining its audience because it's sup posed to, not because it has some burning need to communicate or edify.
Narayan lends much-needed star quality to the proceedings, as does Gerry McIntyre (at least in the second act, when he hits his stride as the Ferryman who helps Sidd find enlightenment). Dann Fink gets a moment in the limelight as well, performing a likable duet, "Everbody Needs Something," with Narayan. But Arthur W. Marks (as Buddha and others) and Marie-France Arcilla (as Sidd's childhood friend Valerie and others) call attention shamelessly to themselves throughout. Michael Bevins's costumes conjure a variety of Eastern cultures with no sense of consistency (are they in India, where Hesse's book takes place, or in China, as some of the costumes seem to suggest?); while Maruti Evans's simple unit set—a carpet covering the stage floor and rear wall—hardly seems sufficient for an off-Broadway musical with a $60 top.
Sidd has already announced its closing as I write these words, so it's on its way to joining the long list of sometimes worthy failures that constitute the vast majority of American musicals ever produced. It's tough to make a great musical. Let's hope that the creators of this one have gotten some enlightenment that will serve them well on their next attempt.