In a small theater on a dark street in a crowded neighborhood just north of the trendy clubs and bars, there exists a land called Tartannia. It is in this mythical land that a Queen keeps a tight rule over her people by keeping them focused on quick satisfaction and the idea that she is looking out for their safety. This is the storyline of The Jack of Tarts at its most basic.
By the end of this musical, however, there have been arrests, deaths, prison breaks, ballets, ballads, betrayals and a lot of tarts. Chris Tanner and Eric Wallach have written the kind of show that can tell multiple tales if you listen close enough. The multiple layers of context and suggestion are only thinly veiled beneath the sparkling whipped cream cherry on top that is the design of this show.
With tall Lance Cruce donning the wig and eyelashes of a deliciously ferocious Queen of Tarts, Jack of Tarts tells the story of a city of people that have become addicted and obsessed with fancy tarts. The single-minded community of townspeople claims to love the Queen and her son but it becomes clear that the love is more about the tarts and the community is more about a collective fear of true freedom.
Framed by the on stage band and backed by white castle walls and a shimmering seaside, Jack of Tarts’ cast includes some powerhouse voices. Some standout solos include Michael Lynch’s drag performance of Agnes, the resistance leader with a soulful voice and commanding presence. Lynch’s songs and aggression enchant until they frighten with an all too familiar decline into politics as usual. Julie Atlas Muz also enchants as the rebellious and waterlogged Annabel Lee. An underground theater favorite, Muz brings a delicate fierceness to the stage that charms without naïveté.
Beyond folding our current political situation into a sweet story, Jack of Tarts excels with fantastic sets and costumes, 17 clever songs by Paul Johnson, and the powerful voices of every character. Playing at La MaMa e.t.c at 74 E. 4th Street, in lower Manhattan through February 17th, Jack of Tarts takes a bitter topic and wraps it into a coarse sugar show. myspace.com/thejackoftarts.