There's a lack of focus all around in this style-less Night of the Hunter. Maybe Denson, a director known for tight control over every detail in a show, simply gave up under the pressure of composer Cole's heavy rewrites. (It looks that way.) Denson may have abandoned any hope of a true noir mood in this production—the final look of the show is of a bare-bones, backwoods Music Man, with the 76 trombones replaced by a plague of locusts—but she did coax remarkably good performances from the two kids in the leads. Jack Vangorden as John has a fine solo with "The Watch," a "wishing song," as it's called in musical theater vocabulary, about wanting an expensive gold watch in a shop window. Little Marlhy Murphy, despite losing concentration to grab a slipping head-mic battery pack, has adorable sibling chemistry with Vangorden. The grown-ups, Gaines and Johnson, sing with power and conviction, but they're stuck selling trite, forgettable songs about Ouija boards and getting washed in "The River Jesus."

Broadway baritone Davis Gaines and Dallas actress Julie Johnson play killer and victim in Lyric Stage's The Night of the Hunter.
James Jamison
Broadway baritone Davis Gaines and Dallas actress Julie Johnson play killer and victim in Lyric Stage's The Night of the Hunter.

That would be the river without water in it, where, like the show itself, the boat just won't float.

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