In 1940’s San Francisco, a down-on-his-luck private investigator takes a big-money job, only to become embroiled in a web of double-crosses and murderous schemes. Thus begins this well-executed, if uneven, musical bonanza by Michael Norman Mann, in which many of the songs in the score are plucked straight from the Grateful Dead catalog. (The remainder are by Jerry Garcia’s long-time collaborator, Robert Hunter.) But Deadheads be warned: Most of the renditions have been given the big-musical makeover to such an extent that they’re virtually unrecognizable. And although seasoned actor Michael Hunsaker has the impressive musical chops to carry the lead role, some of the other actors—most notably Tara Taylor, whose occasionally screechy vocals mar her otherwise enjoyable, Judy Holliday-ish secretary—don’t fare so well. Shakedown Street also suffers from the restrictions of its premise: Songs can seem ill-matched to their moment. Luckily, the six-piece band that accompanies the action is first rate (right down to the goofy xylophone) and the choreography is clever. A little shakedown in the casting, and some tweaking of the score, could keep this musical truckin’.
By Michael Norman Mann
The Village Theatre
Sat, Aug 13 at 9:45 p.m.; Wed, Aug 17 at 2 p.m.; Sat, Aug 20 at 4 p.m.; Sun, Aug 21 at 10:00 p.m.; Thu, Aug 25 at 9:30 p.m.