The Capeman

Book and Lyrics:Paul Simon and Derek Walcott
Music:Paul Simon
Director/Choreographer:Mark Morris
Musical DirectorOscar Hernandez
Sets/Costumes:Bob Crowley
Lighting:Natasha Katz
Sound:Peter J. Fitzgerald
Orchestration:Stanley Silverman
Opened:2/98 at the Marquis
Cast:Ruben Blades, Marc Anthony, Ednita Nazario, Renoly Santiago, Natascia A. Diaz, Philip Hernandez, Luba Mason, Julio Monge, Cass Morgan, Sara Ramirez, Michelle Rios, Sophia Salguero, Stephen Lee Anderson, Nestor Sanchez and Claudette Sierra

The Capeman finally cometh. It's about time; for months, a maelstrom of gossip surrounded pop legend Paul Simon's musical debut. For it was not just any musical. It was an $11 million extravaganza backed by a Broadway Dream Team that included Nobel Prize-winning poet Derek Walcott as book writer and co-librettist (with Simon) and dance genius Mark Morris as choreographer. The press, however, wasn't just concerned with the production's who's who; Simon raised some eyebrows when he poo-pooed Broadway tradition, then delayed the musical's opening for three weeks amidst reports of desperate, nth-hour revisions. You could almost hear members of the theater world licking their chops as they waited to see the lavish debut bomb. They got their wish. Indeed, the production possesses all the energy of a tomb as it recounts the true story of Salvador Agron, a teen Puerto Rican gang member who was convicted of killing two 16-year-old boys in 1959. Salsa sensation Anthony, starring as the troubled youth, delivers a god awful, devastatingly flimsy performance. Anthony's not completely to blame, given the role lacks any emotional core. Agron is so underdeveloped, it's hardly a role at all. The arrival of a lusterless, floundering Blades, who plays the adult Agron, only makes matters worse. Blades's utter lack of energy grinds the show to a halt, a standstill from which it never recovers. Even Morris' dances slump, lacking the usual whimsy. Not surprisingly, the music—an intricate, inventive blend of Latin, doo-wop and gospel—is the best part of the show. But ultimately it fails to unite the other elements of the production. Only when the real Agron shows up via projected images does his dramatic life story spark any fire. Simon's much-trumped Capeman may be a labor of love, but it's a labor to watch. It won't be long before The Capeman goeth.