THE EVOLUTION OF MANN: Musical Review by Robin Gorman Newman

The subject of dating never gets old, especially in today’s complex and often overwhelming social technology age.  THE EVOLUTION OF MANN (love the title) doesn’t delve into the online scene but rather addresses the age-old quandry of making the right dating choices, whether via fate or a fix-up.

(photo credit: Carol Rosegg)

THE EVOLUTION OF MANN features music & lyrics by Drama Desk nominee Douglas J. Cohen (Children’s Letters to God, The Opposite of Sex) and book & lyrics by Dan Elish (13: The Musical) based on his novel, Nine Wives.

Directed by Joe Barros, the production stars Max Crumm in the title role, with Allie Trimm and Leslie Hiatt

As we meet Henry Mann, a 32 year old single New York writer/wannabe musical writer, he is reeling while addressing the audience about the countless weddings he’s attended in the past year…. and his frustration and angst is palpable.

The latest invitation just received puts him over the top, and Henry dumps about being dumped by his fiance, Sheila, who has invited him to her wedding to a wealthy guy.  Henry enters into a dating tailspin on a crusade to find  a wedding companion and hopeful soulmate….only his romantic radar is not top notch…..and he bounces from one type to another until the possibility emerges that a desirable prospect might in fact be right under his nose….or within his daily line of vision from his NYC apartment.

His lesbian roommate bestie Gwen, is separated from her wife Diane who she yearns to win back.  So, she and Henry make a lovesick duo with their respective relationship challenges.

The likeable threesome actors are put thru their paces in the 90 minute, no intermission musical comedy, and each is nimbly up to the task.

Crumm has a high energy presence and tackles the awkward Henry with full commitment and gusto.

Trimm is a chamelion charmer.  She transforms seemingly effortlessly and appealingly as she takes on the quite varied roles of Sheila (Henry’s ex), Christine (a meek colleague with a unibrow that unsettles Mann), Tamar (a self-absorbed fashionista)….and Mann’s kvetchy mother.

Hiatt, whose character deserved more musical moments, delivers perhaps the most earnest portrayal…and has an arty comical turn when she performs as an amoeba.

At times the music feels too present during the dialogue – almost like background noise — but there are some standouts including the lovely “It’s Only a First Date” sung beautifully by Trimm.  “Settling Down” takes a clever spin, and “Hard” (every pun intended) is lusty and cheekily-staged.  Lyrics are witty….though at times a bit too committed to rhyme.

The production team includes Vadim Feichtner (Music Supervisor) , Eric Svejcar  (Music Director), Libby Stadstad (Scenic Designer), Chris Steckel (Lighting/Assistant Stage Manager), Siena Zoë Allen (Costumes), Nathan Scheuer (Projections), Kristyn Smith (Sound Design) , Matt Aument (Orchestration),  Kayla Santos (Production Stage Manager), Brian Reager (Associate Director) and Liz Flemming (Associate Producer).

Smart compact staging complements the show, replete with a runway and balcony (fully used), plus a plastic overhanging symbolic of the NYC skyline, illuminated boxes,  a stack of wedding invitations that get raised and lowered by rope, and trap doors that magically emerge in the floor conveniently housing wine glasses and more.

While offering no major revelations, THE EVOLUTION OF MANN is entertaining light fare in a cozy space that is Nancy Manocherian’s the cell. (Note: the seating is chairs, some of which are high…so not the most comfortable for everyone.)

THE EVOLUTION OF MANN runs through October 27; Tuesday – Friday at 8pm and Saturday at 3pm & 8pm, and Sunday at 3pm. Nancy Manocherian’s the cell is located at 338 W 23rd St, between 8th & 9th Avenues. Visit

  1. One Response to “THE EVOLUTION OF MANN: Musical Review by Robin Gorman Newman”

  2. Terrific essay!

    By Rochelle Jewel Shapiro on Oct 10, 2018