Abingdon Theatre

28 March 2005

NY Jazz Report's Will Wolf stopped by the Abingdon Theatre on Tuesday evening 22 March 2005 to catch the Rome Neal / Laurence Holder production of "Monk." This one-man play runs through 8 May 2005.

Written by
Portrayed by
Directed by

Laurence Holder
Rome Neal
Rome Neal & Laurence Holder
Bill Lee

Rome Neal and Laurence Holder have merged their creative resources to bring back the "High Priest of Bebop," Thelonious Sphere Monk, for an energetic discourse on the meaning of his life and his music. Considering the full flavor of his eccentric genius and the wide range of his musical influence, there may not be another jazz musician who would be more fitting as a subject for a one-man show. As one might expect, this entertaining account is an offbeat journey, and it's filled with countless detours and shifts in mood, as Monk struggles with his many demons. It's poetry in "loco" motion, written and performed like a fine bop classic, like one of Monk's best.

Working from the well crafted script developed by Holder, Neal brilliantly captures the essence of the man and all his raw emotion, weaving in and out of consciousness and delivering a colorful array of disjointed, potent (and sometimes witty) riffs about Monk's life and those who touched it: Bud, Bird, Dizzy, Kenny Clarke, Max, Art Blakey, Clifford Brown, Miles, Nica, .......... and most especially, his mother and his wife. And Neal's portrayal of the master bopper as he periodically dances into a trance, punctuating his pearls of wisdom, just like Monk loved to do while playing his music, is so convincing, it's almost eerie.

During his lifetime he may have been an enigma, but this first-class production, aided by Bill Lee's clever, unobtrusive music, helps remind us that Monk never ceases to amaze. Do not miss this show. It's a must see.

"MONK"  Website
Thelonious Monk Website

Photo by William J. Vila

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