May 29, 2015

There must be less likely sources for a jazz musical, but Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel “The Marble Faun,” from 1860, seems pretty improbable. Steeped in Puritan piety, it’s a misty melodrama set in Rome among four artist friends, one of whom is hiding a sinister secret. In “For the Last Time,” the jazz composer Nancy Harrow and the director Will Pomerantz have transferred the action to 1950 New Orleans, another history-haunted city with a carnival tradition and a religious culture. The friends are all here: the beautiful, vivacious Miriam (Brittany Campbell); the prim, white-gloved Hilda (Anita Welch); the smooth-talking Kenyon (Carl Clemons-Hopkins); and the sweet Donatello (Britton Smith), fresh from bayou country. The trouble with the show is not Ms. Harrow’s catchy music or the terrific eight-piece band (led by Cody Owen Stine). Directed by Mr. Pomerantz at the Clurman Theater at Theater Row, the Clement Arts production looks good, too, unfolding on a two-tiered set (by John McDermott) that makes impressive use of a shallow space. The cast is strong, including two standout vocalists, Ms. Welch and the all-around excellent Mr. Clemons-Hopkins. As the script specifies, all of the actors here are African-American.