Arts in New York City: Baruch College, Fall 2008, Professor Roslyn Bernstein
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Walking through Times Square at eight p.m. on a fall evening is an electrifying experience. My class was there to see Clay, a show that is the polar opposite of Dr. Atomic, the opera we saw at the Met the week before. Dr. Atomic had many performers who sang to slow, soft opera music, while Clay had one singer, Matt Sax, who performed hip-hop.

            The show opened with a young man with blood on his forehead and bright lights beaming on the stage. This was gripping because the audience did not know who the character was and why he had blood on his face. The musical is a flashback to a teenage boy’s troubled childhood. Sax acts out the parts of Clifford, who is the main character, his father, his mother, his stepmother and Sir John. Sax’s ability to play five different roles in one show is a rare talent.

            The storyline is typical in today’s modern performances. A young boy, Clifford, is told that his parents are going to get a divorce. Clifford’s seven-year-old mind cannot comprehend the reality of the situation, so he finds himself making funny faces in the bathroom mirror of the courthouse. I remember making silly faces in the mirror when I was a kid, so I was able to relate to this. Clifford grows up with his father, and is estranged from his mother, except for a yearly happy birthday call. After a few years, Clifford’s mother commits suicide, and leaves Clifford completely to his father and his new wife. Clifford is angry about his mother’s death and the fact that his father does not care. He roams the streets, and he meets the hip-hop star, Sir John, who runs a bookstore during the day, and makes hip-hop shows at night.

            Clifford begins to take hip-hop lessons and he can only spit at first rather than make music with his mouth. It is hilarious to see Sax go from being the tough hip-hop star, to the young, quivering Clifford. He changes from one role to the next very effectively.

            The scenes became a little too graphic towards the middle of the show. I did not find it necessary for Sax to make out with the microphone or use such explicit language when singing about girls. It was humorous to most people, but I felt it went a little over the top.  Before Sax portrayed the stepmother stepping out of her underwear, I was enjoying the show. Once it got to this point I became disgusted.

            The final moments of the show portray Clifford as a hero, even after he is unfaithful to his own father. People who commit adultery should not be looked up to as superstars. Even though Clifford suffers in his youth, I do not believe he should be able to get away with his negative actions. 

1 comment

1 Jack { 12.10.08 at 11:42 pm }

I agree with you that the middle of the musical was a little too graphic and it was a “polar opposite” of Dr Atomic. I certainly did not expect the actor to engage with the audiences. Overall, you made a very well organized review that not only gave the reader a glimpse of the struggles of Clifford but also your perspective of the musical.