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“Dead Outlaw” reviewed

A few years ago, Itamar Moses, David Yazbek, and David Cromer found artistic and commercial success with their gentle musical adaptation of the little-known film The Band’s Visit. Now the Tony-winning trio is back with another unique piece, Dead Outlaw, playing off-Broadway’s Audible Theatre.

Moses penned the book for the musical, which is based on the true story of American outlaw Elmer McCurdy, who in 1911 was killed in a shoot-out with police after stealing a train in Oklahoma. His body was then put on display in a traveling side show. Yazbek teams with Erik Della Penna on the musical’s country-twanged score, a cast of pros delivering every note and lyric with the utmost energy (expert music direction is by Rebekah Bruce).

Leading the show’s cast as Elmer is Andrew Durand, a recent star of the Broadway musical Shucked, who inflects the outlaw at this musical’s center with appealing earnestness and humanity. Durand is supported by a company of stage veterans that includes standouts Eddie Cooper, Julia Knitel and Thom Sesma, whose performances coalesce thanks to Cromer’s sturdy direction.

As with other offerings from Audible Theatre, Dead Outlaw will be recorded as an audioplay for release on Audible. Sound designers Kai Harada and Josh Millican support this extended mission by devising a theatrical design balance that expands beyond the theater venue. Heather Gilbert lights the expansive set by Arnuldo Maldonado with an appropriately tainted glow. Sarah Laux’s period-specific costumes add to this palate, looking fine as the actors execute the movement devised by Ani Taj.

With the addition of Della Penna, Dead Outlaw cements the creative partnership of Moses, Yazbek, and Cromer as theater makers whose unique curiosity adds an eclectic brand of artistry to the American theater canon. And thanks to Audible’s one-of-a-kind dual programming philosophy, the story told in this first-class musical will live on for new audiences to discover through their earphones.