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  •  REVIEW: COOKING THE BOOKS

      Cooking the Books
    Not enough on their plate

    "Cooking the Books" is an unsuccessful attempt at a hip-hop musical mystery.

    By JOSHUA TANZER
    Offoffoff.com


    You can be assured of a very gracious greeting at the door, a decent meal and a group of actors with the earnest desire to see you entertained at "Cooking the Books," but sincerity isn't enough to make this show a winner.

    COOKING THE BOOKS
     SCHEDULE
    Playwright Tavern
    202 West 49th St.
    Previews start: June 5, 2004
    Opens: June 20, 2004

      
    This musical — sort of a revue intercut with video plot advancements — is made by people with a general idea of how to put a show together but none of the particulars. Soul and rap numbers on different subjects seem to loosely follow some kind of story line, but the details are vague. First somebody gets killed on video — and then forgotten the next minute. Then a group of "executives" argue musically about an embezzlement gone wrong, which they decide to pin on another guy who also only exists on video. Then somebody else gets killed, then there's an argument, then ... whatever. This is a "hip-hop murder mystery" in name only — there's nothing to be figured out, and there's nothing engaging about the presentation either.

    In the show's defense, a couple of cast members have decent voices and there is one number ("Bitch, I'm Better than You"), pitting them against each other, that seemed to perk up the crowd a little. On the other hand, almost all the singing is in unison, as if the composers had never heard of the concept of harmony. It's just one way that the production fails to inspire confidence from its earliest moments. The main thing this production has going for it is good intentions, and that's not enough.

    JUNE 18, 2004
    OFFOFFOFF.COM • THE GUIDE TO ALTERNATIVE NEW YORK



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