Gallatin part-time faculty member Ben Steinfeld worked in collaboration with Broadway actor Alexander Gemignani to create the original musical “Diamond Alice,” in which Alice Diamond and her gang of women challenge the audience to root for the criminally selfish in this musical. The play, performed at the Jerry H. Labowitz Theatre for the Performing Arts, was written and directed by Steinfeld, with lyrics by Gemignani. The 20th century London musical ties a heartwarming story about sisterhood to an exhilarating crime narrative. The title of the musical is based on the Forty Elephants Gang, an all-female shoplifting circle.
Only a few furniture pieces and two columns covered with advertisements appear on stage. The sparsity comes to life, however, as the three young and playful sisters are introduced to the audience by stating their main aspirations. Alice Diamond (Gallatin senior Olivia Wendel), the protagonist, wants independence. Her sister, Maggie Hughes (Gallatin senior Katherine Romans), is a recent war widow and angered by the state of the country. The third sister, Lady Victoria Brittenham (Gallatin junior Gwen Hornig), cares only about climbing the social ladder. Gemignani’s lyrics showcase the sisters’ initial closeness and how their differing goals cause a cataclysmic divergence in their relationship.
It is only after Maggie’s volatile temperament lands her in jail that she is able to reconnect with Alice. Maggie and Alice enlist the help of Lady Victoria’s maid, Rose O’Leary, who is exasperated with the way she is treated, Gert Holmes, a society reporter who only wishes she could write about actual news and Millie Brown, a bar owner who wishes to be a famous singer. These roles are played by Gallatin seniors Kathryn Gemma Faughnan, Kerry Candeloro and Sarah Flamm, respectively. The three contrasting characters reconcile differences and clashing personalities in order to jailbreak Maggie.
The cast all played their roles marvelously. However, there were two stand-out performances that felt the most consistently convincing. Romans does a wonderful job capturing Maggie’s anger — her facial expressions and mannerisms never break her constant rage and resentment. Faughnan as Rose shows an incredible transformation between the character’s initial meekness and her later bold and impassioned search for independence. Additionally, her Irish accent was particularly exceptional.
The stage allowed the audience to feel connected as the actresses moved to and from the corners of the set. Unfortunately, there were several instances where the cast fought to make themselves heard through competing voices. When the cast sang collectively, though, the music thrived. The performance would have been improved tenfold had they been microphoned.
Steinfeld did great work with the actresses despite the minimal props and sometimes overwhelming orchestrals. Overall, Steinfeld and Gemignani did an exceptional job in turning a historical gang into a fictitious but sweet rendition of history.
“Diamond Alice” closed on Saturday after seven performances.
A version of this article appeared in the Oct. 13 print edition.