Marcus & Kim: Brainwashed

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Marcus & Kim


The Greenroom 42, NYC, June 4, 2023

Reviewed by Bart Greenberg

Marcus Perkins Bejarano and Kim Jinhyoung

A lazy ragtag group of soldiers in South Korea’s army redeem themselves by putting on a show. Five immigrants survive a blustery winter in a bustling jazz bar on the edge of K-Town, NYC. Latino characters whose reality lies in the gray areas of identity (ethnicity, gender, politics, morality, etc.). These are just some of the worlds to come out of the imagination—and the experiences—of two young theater songwriters, Marcus Perkins Bejarano and Kim Jinhyoung, who have been writing together for the past five years. At The Greenroom 42, they presented an evening of their material—moving, funny, traditional, and contemporary—performed by a fine group of young artists in a surprisingly polished presentation.

The evening kicked off with the title number, “Brainwashed,” whose lyrics were specific to the evening. It demonstrated a grasp of old-fashioned musical comedy pizzazz as delivered by Jonny Lee, Jr. and Jordi Viscarri, who served as appropriate stand-ins for the composers. With great charm, the writers then introduced a quartet of songs from Two Nights and Three Days, their show set in the South Korean Army (Kim is a veteran): The first was “Shine,” a classic “I want song” for the heroine of the story, Ashley Chiu; it focused on her military career ambitions and had hints of Stephen Sondheim and Jule Styne. Then came the title number, which offered the classic situation of three soldiers on leave (Sam Tanabe, Lee, and Ellis Gage) given some twist by their differing and unique goals for the time span. Next came “Marionette,” a KPOP-inspired show within the performance delivered by the same trio and that showed off their impressive coordinated movements with, most likely, little rehearsal time. The fourth was “Take a Chance,” a wonderful mix of humor and emotion that included the cute rhyme of “I’m a chicken… time is a tickin’” delivered by Tanabe and Joo Won Shin.

It should be mentioned that the entire evening was surprisingly polished. Often presentations of this type can turn into trainwrecks with the cast entering and leaving the stage, the constant shifting of music stands, and awkward choreography constrained by very small spaces. Not one of these issues was evident during the evening, which flowed without pause. The three musicians also contributed much to this effortlessness as they matched the different voices and musical styles with ease. Music director/pianist Isaac Hayward, guitarist Justin Rothberg, and bassist Max Jacob earned plaudits.

Next up were two songs from Bitter/Sweet, a musical about Latino identity for those who don’t quite fit in. “Toruguita” exhibited a looser form that suggested the singers were adrift in their world. Paolo V. Hernandez, Gilbert D Sanchez, and Shin delivered this with feeling. One of the highlights of the evening was the story told in “Gringo” by Viscarri, a humorous take on the issues of being too light skinned to be recognized as a Latino. The lyrics included the impressive near triple rhyme of “Hispanic,” “Aesthetic,” and “Copasetic.”

From Wait…ing came the strongest material of all, and the strongest performances of the evening. Sanchez took total control of the stage with his celebration of “Bleached Hair”; we’ll be seeing more of him in the future. Then Shin displayed his sensational voice with a passionate “Dreams You Can’t Dream.” A stand-alone musical scene, “The Diagnosis,” followed; in it Viscarri, Lee, and Gage gave a demonstration of the versatility of the writers and blended electronic music with a hint of Bock and Harnick. Things wrapped up with a jubilant feel-good number from the first show highlighted entitled “Shine Thru.” The company shined indeed. It will be interesting to follow the career of Markus & Kim as they continue to offer fresh material.

Bart Greenberg

Bart Greenberg first discovered cabaret a few weeks after arriving in New York City by seeing Julie Wilson and William Roy performing Stephen Sondheim and Cole Porter outdoors at Rockefeller Center. It was instant love for both Ms. Wilson and the art form. Some years later, he was given the opportunity to create his own series of cabaret shows while working at Tower Records. "Any Wednesday" was born, a weekly half-hour performance by a singer promoting a new CD release. Ann Hampton Callaway launched the series. When Tower shut down, Bart was lucky to move the program across the street to Barnes & Noble, where it thrived under the generous support of the company. The series received both The MAC Board of Directors Award and The Bistro Award. Some of the performers who took part in "Any Wednesday" include Barbara Fasano and Eric Comstock, Tony Desare, Andrea Marcovicci, Carole Bufford, the Karens, Akers, Mason and Oberlin, and Julie Wilson. Privately, Greenberg is happily married to writer/photographer Mark Wallis, who as a performance artist in his native England gathered a major following as "I Am Cereal Killer."