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REVIEW: ‘The Road to Qatar!’ goes nowhere fast

Qatar020311_optBackstage musical about making a musical in the Middle East aspires to be funny

BY MICHAEL SOMMERS
NEWJERSEYNEWSROOM.COM
OFF BROADWAY REVIEW

Several years ago, writer Stephen Cole and composer David Krane were commissioned to create an American-style musical to premiere in the world's biggest indoor soccer stadium in the oil-rich Arab nation of Qatar.

The team's apparently nutty adventures while fashioning and rehearsing "Aspire," a no-expense-spared extravaganza — 100 performers, 40 camels, guest star Muhammad Ali — now forms the basis of a new musical by Cole and Krane, "The Road to Qatar!" which opened Thursday at the York Theatre at Saint Peter's.

In spite of the promising notion, an inventive staging by Phillip George of the "Forbidden Broadway" series and a hardworking five-member cast led by James Beaman and Keith Gerchak as the fictional version of Cole and Krane, the show strangely duds out.

Somehow Cole's libretto and lyrics fail to mine effectively the humorous incongruity of "two short Jews" living high on the six-star hog in a glitzy Arab world while dealing desperately with a shady Egyptian producer, a melodramatic local adviser, an airheaded interpreter, a flaming Italian director and other oddball strangers. Krane's 15 upbeat tunes leave no impression at all.

The best thing to be said about "The Road to Qatar!" is that it's over in less than 90 minutes.

"The Road to Qatar!" continues through Feb. 27 at the York Theatre at Saint Peter's, 619 Lexington Avenue (at 54th St.), New York. Call (212) 935-5820 or visit www.yorktheatre.org.

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