Review: ‘Ernest Shackleton Loves Me’ at Tony Kiser Theatre

By Jonathan Spira on 13 June 2017
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Back in his day, Ernest Shackleton was not only a famous explorer but a master of quickly responding to constantly changing circumstance. His well-known voyage to Antarctica may have begun as a mission of exploration, but it turned into a matter of survival. Through the miracle of theatre, he, in the slightly icy form of actor Wade McCollum, returns 100 years later to help a modern day damsel in distress deal with her own challenges.

Val Vigoda, a songwriter/composer who has toured with Cyndi Lauper as well as with the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, plays Kat, a struggling songwriter/composer and single mom to a crying baby, who lives in a frigid Brooklyn apartment. Having not slept for some 36 hours and distressed over the disappearance of the baby’s father, she posts an ad on the aptly-named Cupid’s Leftovers dating site and immediately hears from a seemingly captivated Shackleton, who quickly masters the use of Skype for video calls and then pays a call, entering the Brooklyn apartment through her Frigidaire refrigerator.

A bit of background is required. When the Endurance set sail in August 1914, its goal was for Shackleton and his team to arrive in Antarctica and become the first to walk across the vast frozen continent. His help-wanted newspaper ad seeking to recruit men for the voyage was straight and to the point: “Men wanted for hazardous journey. Low wages, bitter cold, long hours of complete darkness. Safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in event of success.”


Much like Kat, the Endurance became immobilized, trapped by ice just within sight of the Antarctic mainland. Both needed Shackleton to rescue them.

Kat’s very 2017 music (composed by Vigoda’s frequent collaborator and ex-husband Brendan Milburn, Vigoda penned the lyrics) helps Shackleton keep his focus and allows him to seek help and return to rescue his crew and bring them safely home and Val to pull things together enough to get a commission for a music installation at MoMA. The exhortations in the songs’ lyrics: “Keep sailing on,” “Don’t let your heart sink down,” and “Be the calm in the eye of the storm” are several of the messages sent and received.

The show integrates actual footage from Shackleton’s failed mission to further support the idea that a dead married British explorer would end up in a Frigidaire in Brooklyn. Once you can accept that, you recognize that anything is possible.


Ernest Shackleton Loves Me
Tony Kiser Theatre
305 West 43rd Street
New York, N.Y. 10036
Runtime: 1 hr. and 30 min.

(Photos: Accura Media Group)

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