We’re all aware of the much-publicized contention between master planner, Robert Moses, and activist Jane Jacobs. Much has been said about Moses’ achievements – throughout the length of his career, he was instrumental in constructing 13 of NYC’s bridges, as well as a number of highways, parks and beaches. But as one of the most influential figures in the city’s urban growth, he was often faced with opposition, backlash and criticism. It’s very much embroiled in NYC’s spotty history, and now Moses’ story is being brought to life through an unconventional approach: BLDZR: The Gospel According to Moses is a rock musical that spoon-feeds us a slice of urban history with undeniably catchy tunes.
With the success of three sold-out showcases, the show will return for a “family-friendly” Holiday Matinee showcase on Sunday, Nov. 20 (2 p.m.). inside Manhattan’s Cutting Room (44 East 32nd St). We were lucky enough to catch the October 20th performance set in the Triad Theater on West 72nd Street.
Conceived and written by Peter Galperin, with a book co-written by Daniel Scot Kadin, and directed by Gary Ray Bugarcic, BLDZR (pronounced “bulldozer”), condenses Moses’ life (and eventual demise) into 90-minute live performance. Though unconventional, watching the story unfold through a musical is undoubtedly more entertaining than reading about the same topic in a textbook. The Triad, a performance arts venue on the Upper West Side, was packed the night we attended the show. It was also quite intimate – very much like the performance itself, which explores a more personal side of Moses’ tale.
While many define Moses by his accomplishments (or lackthereof, depending on who you ask), BLDZR expertly paints a portrait of the master planner, bringing him to life through the song. In many instances, it is comical. But for every catchy, uplifting tune in the showcase, there’s an even more emotional ballad that outlines Moses as a complex and deeply self-critical man, who struggles to balance his relationship with his wife Vera with his own need for greatness. It begins with an introduction of Moses as a cunning teenager and covers the trajectory of his career, when Jane Jacobs (played by Sara Jecko) and a young Nelson D. Rockefeller (Patrick N. Brady) come into play.
As the show states, “BLDZR dramatizes Master Builder Robert Moses’ evolution from a young idealist fervent with a desire to build the greatest city in the world to a power-insulated enemy of the people, corrupted, lost and alone.”
Through the portrayal of his triumphs and loses, Moses (played by David Driver, an original cast member of RENT) is instantly humanized, and Galperin’s use of music only serves to emphasize these emotions throughout the musical. After all, this is the gospel according to Moses – not just about him.