The Giant Hoax: A Review
Kit Goldstein Grant is having quite the career. The multi nominated award-winning composer, lyricist and librettist of The Nose and The Wrong Box, just to name a few, has seen her musicals produced in several venues both nationally and abroad. Additionally, the Juilliard trained artist has had her published musicals for young audiences touring with the Schenectady Theatre for Children. She has firmly established herself as a rising star in the fields of family entertainment and children’s threatre. The Giant Hoax, her latest creation to which she has once again provided the book, music, and lyrics, produced by IndieWorks Theatre Company and onstage at New York’s legendary Theatre Row, is yet another wonderful example of her estimable skills.
The story of the Cardiff Giant is one of the greatest flimflams in American lore. A ten-foot-tall supposedly prehistoric petrified man was unearthed behind the barn of one William C. “Stub” Newell. The story was that he found the artifact as he dug a well on his property in Cardiff, New York. Newell set up a tent on the very spot of his discovery and began charging admission. As the popularity of the Giant grew so did the price to view the mysterious find. P.T. Barnum, the greatest of all hucksters, got wind of the popular and profitable exhibit and offered Stub an exorbitant amount of money to acquire what he knew to be a fraud that he also knew would continue to pay off. The farmer refused, Barnum balked and retaliated with his own equally counterfeit giant and a rather bold legal challenge of dubious veracity. Eventually both men and the Giant were exposed, a legend was born, and people still came in droves to view the now revealed hoax.
Goldstein Grant has adopted this story and adapted it through the wide eyes and overly active imagination of a young and inquisitive girl named Emily played in a star making turn by Staci Stout. Emily runs away from home leaving her mother behind to find adventure and wonder. She soon finds herself drawn to the Stub’s farm and in the company of the Cardiff Giant where she takes a center seat to all the antics to come. The story of Emily’s journey is delightfully written and the music and lyrics are both charmingly whimsical and deeply moving. Mark Brymer’s orchestrations and Jonathon Lynch’s arrangements also assist in bringing the beautiful score to additional life. But it’s Goldstein Grant’s decision to put a strong young female protagonist front and center that drives this story. Seeing this world and these characters through her point of view gives Goldstein Grant a great deal of latitude and flexibility to play in both reality and imagination to deliver some outstanding storytelling.
For the most part the cast of The Giant Hoax is truly gifted vocally and they’re adept at juggling multiple roles. Note must be made of Forest VanDyke as William “Stub” Newell who delivers a barker’s zeal and a conman’s charm but is also sweet and fatherly in his interactions with Emily. Equally outstanding is Robyne Parrish as Emily's mother. In a role that is primarily confined to the imaginary reflections of her missing daughter Parrish finds a way to project a mother’s love and concerns while also supporting her child’s dreams with guidance and caring. She acts like a mom and sings like an angel. This is all set against a world beautifully designed and executed by scenic designer Theron Wineinger, costume designer Tyler Carlton Williams, and lighting designer Conor Martin Mulligan. And when the Giant himself makes his appearance it’s the puppet design and fabrication of Noel Williams along with lead puppeteer Daniel Moser’s performance as The Giant’s voice with Mary Albert and Jianzi Colon-Soto as his right and left hands that skillfully brings Emily’s imagination into singing and dancing reality.
In the midst of bringing The Giant Hoax to life Kit Goldstein Grant and her husband Michael Henry Grant announced the arrival of their first baby. Oliver Robin Goldstein Grant was born at the height of launching an exceptional creative endeavor. It’s nice to know that baby Oliver arrived to a world that is lucky to have his very creative mother in it providing quality family entertainment like The Giant Hoax which will empower current and future generations of children. Her work lets them know that imagination and wonder are nothing to run away from. Indeed, the lesson here is that creative gifts can and will always change the world for the better.
Edward Medina is an active member of the American Theatre Critics Association (ATCA), where he serves on both the Membership and Diversity & Inclusion Committees. He is also a voting member of The Drama Desk. Edward welcomes comments at EdwardMedinaAuthor@gmail.com.
410 W 42nd St
New York, NY 10036
Nov 19 - Dec 7, 2019
90 minutes, no intermission
$40 - $75