The off-Broadway COVID musical features songs about the pandemic


So the pandemic is coming to an end, isn’t it?

To the right? Please?

We can only hope.

But COVID couldn’t stop theater people from doing what they do: put on shows, tell stories, make people laugh, write songs.

Proof of this can be seen off-Broadway in “Notes From Now: Songs of Resilience & Renewal,” which ends for a short run at 59E59 Theaters.

Directed and choreographed by Billy Bustamante, this usually entertaining show presented by Prospect Theater Company features newly commissioned original songs created by “21 of today’s brightest musical theater writers,” a press release reads.

Many songs in this 90-minute production focus on the coronavirus. “Ovid,” by Jeff Blumenkrantz, is one of the highlights, as the hilarious Josh Lamon talks about the joys of making sourdough bread. He’s even better later in the show, singing “Coming Back to You” by Peter Mills, which could be the theme song for any musical theater lover.

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Jay Adana’s “Craving You” features Thani Brant and Aline Mayagoitia as a couple who are dating online but have never met in person. We see them take rapid COVID tests before they can finally be together. Watching them kiss is a nice moment. We can all relate to that feeling of seeing a friend or family member for the first time.

“Polarized”, another by Mills, is a lot of fun. At first you think it’s about global warming because the cast plays polar bears, but you soon realize it’s about the sad state of American politics.

Troy Anthony writes a powerful Black Lives Matter message with “We Are Building Our Future”, orchestrated by Wiley DeWeese. Darron Hayes leads the company in this one, and at a recent performance, the song received an eruption of applause.

“A Song For Now” by Douglas Lyons and Ethan Pakchar is about surviving those chaotic two years, while remembering those who didn’t. As Stephen Schwartz and Alexandra Elle’s “Bloom” continues that sentiment, it comes across as an unnecessary reminder.

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The 17 numbers of “Notes From Now” are interpreted by an impressive group of six musicians, led by Sean Peter Forte. I watched his fingers on the piano all night.

Shannon Clarke’s lighting design is outstanding; there are moments that are quite beautiful. Riw Rakkulchon’s stage design is haphazard. The faux flowers above the stage may be meant to reflect “Bloom,” but they distract from the puzzle-like blocks in the center of the stage. Tracks are rearranged by the company for each song – it’s simple and effective.

“Notes From Now” is a good reminder of what we’ve all been through – and that something wonderful can come out of pain, anger, frustration and sadness.

Many other songs are being written: about the environment, politics or race relations. Maybe even about the end of the pandemic?

We can only hope.

To go: 59E59 Theaters, 59 E. 59th St., New York. Until Sunday, March 20, tickets are between $65.50 and $85.50.

Bill Canacci can be reached at [email protected]