Upon walking into the fourth‑floor theater space at Theatre Row, I found something I had yet to see during a solo show: the pre‑show music was not incomprehensible Muzak. Instead, a piano player tickled the ivories until the show was ready to begin. Then Ed Napier struts out, a robust, confident middle‑aged man. He is going to share with us some of the lessons he’s learned in his years as a singer and a playwright. His humorous stories will mostly revolve around two educators from his artistic nascence: his Metropolitan Opera‑obsessed voice teacher, who demanded that he devote his life to opera, and his brilliant Viennese acting instructor‑turned‑colleague, who directed his first play. Through these anecdotes, Mr. Napier recounts his defining moments, as well as his family’s quirks that led him (or rather, forced him) to pursue music. When Mr. Napier, born and raised in West Virginia, realized he was an atrocious piano player, he found he could sing, and as a teenager, he would do impressions of country singers at his local dive bar. Of course, no show about music would be complete without a smattering of musical numbers. Mr. Napier treats his audience to a number of operatic arias (all of which have foreign‑language titles that this reviewer wouldn’t dare attempt to remember), proving Mrs. Roberts’s (the voice teacher) declaration that he should devote his life to singing. Mr. Napier’s resonance is incredible, and his tone rivals the likes of Pavarotti and Domingo. He turns his solo show into a two‑man piece, through the participation of his pianist. And so that the accompanist isn’t just sitting there while Mr. Napier monologues, he sometimes assumes the comic role of Bobby, Mrs. Roberts’s on‑again‑off‑again voice lesson accompanist. Although Mr. Napier makes caricatures of his two mentors, he reveals that although they were insanely absurd, both suffered great loss and tragedy, only to find solace in their art. The eccentric voice teacher lost a child almost four decades prior, and she found healing through singing. The acting coach fled Austria as a child to escape the Nazis. Ultimately, Mr. Napier asserts that even though people may have their comedic idiosyncrasies, everyone has their own demons and uphill battles to face. Mr. Napier has an electric personality, inspiring and captivating from the moment he steps onstage. Larger than life, he eloquently slips in and out of his characters, who become iconic by the end of the show. Although his singing voice is stunningly crystal clear, the humorous exchanges with his mentors are the show’s true highlights.
“Music Lessons” Written and Performed by Ed Napier October 26 at 2 PM and November 13 at 9 PM Photo: courtesy of the production 2019 United Solo Festival Theatre Row 410 West 42nd Street New York City
MIKEY MILLER is an actor, writer, and tutor based in Jersey City, NJ. He received his BA in English with a minor in theatre arts from the University of Pennsylvania in 2018. Since then, Mikey has acted in off-Broadway and regional productions and worked as a freelance writer for publications such as StageAgent and ShowTickets.