Review: The Ballad of Klook and Vinette

12_ZACHTheatre_Ballad of Klook_5450_Photo by KirkTuck
Chanel as Vinette. (Photos by Kirk Tuck)

This past weekend, I took in the new musical The Ballad of Klook and Vinette, which is  making its regional debut on the Kleberg stage at ZACH Theatre.

The musical fields a cast of two, the titular Klook, played by Roderick Sanford, and Vinette, played by Chanel. It tells the story of a May-December romance between a younger woman and older man, both of whom have complicated pasts that we learn about through the course of the show. In many respects, each of the characters are interesting, and the actors do a good job of bringing them to life. The material they have to work with, however, holds them back a bit.

The show gets off to somewhat of a slow start, and makes use of what I would call tired dramatic tropes. The style of dialog given the actors also was sometimes puzzling.

It becomes obvious as the story unfolds that despite their circumstances, both Klook and Vinette are self-taught, widely read, and fairly high-minded thinkers. So I don’t question their intelligence. But sincerely, the number of big words they throw at each other in extremely rapid-fire delivery put me in mind of a poetry slam instead of a conversation between lovers.

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Roderick Sanford as Klook.

However, the play got better and richer — and certainly more dramatic — as it went on. I appreciated the emotional journey each character went on, starting in one place, then coming together (their shared journey changing each character profoundly), and ending up in a new mental space by the end. To avoid spoilers, I won’t say more. I did cry, though.

As well, each of the protagonists got to deliver a number of slyly funny one-liners that had the audience laughing, a welcome relief as much of the second half of the show is fraught with tension.

The musical is peppered throughout with about a dozen songs. Both actors sing well, but Chanel’s belting out of some of the tunes is especially spectacular. The singers are accompanied by Christian Magby on piano and Anna Macias on upright bass (for the showing I attended; some performances feature Ricky Pringle on bass). I enjoyed all of the music, and appreciated the piano and bass accompaniment in scenes with no songs, rather just a bit of underlying jazz riff to set the mood.

With book by Ché Walker and music and lyrics from Anoushka Lucas and Omar Lyefook, The Ballad of Klook and Vinette continues at ZACH through May 26.

Published by Rebecca Johnson

Writer and editor covering arts and culture in Austin, Texas and beyond.

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