Inappropriate. That's a word that constantly rang in my ears during childhood. I still hear it today. I cannot walk around daily with magenta hair and a tiara without expecting some kind of reaction! But certainly times, and I, have changed since ten years ago. As hard as it was to come of age in the 1980s, being a teenager in the year 2000 is paved with new perils--the Internet, heinous school shootings, the exploitative media--as well as the old standby's--drugs, child abuse, and rape. These problems, and the emotions they evoke, are what Inappropriate, a new musical based on the writings of contemporary teens, is about.
What makes the show--which recently completed its run on Theatre Row and hopes to find a new venue--unique is the fact that it doesn't showcase "professional" actors, but stars troubled teens. These talented adolescents hail from the DeSisto School, a college prep program in the Berkshires dedicated to helping troubled kids. The original idea for the show was conceived by A. Michael DeSisto, the founder and director of the school, and the late Lonnie McNeil, who worked with students in the school's drama program for many years. Together the team wrote, directed, and mounted Inappropriate, but the inspiration clearly comes from the kids.
The show admittedly has a Rent-like quality. In fact there are more than a few similarities. In addition to a cast member who is an Anthony Rapp doppelganger, and the Pat Field/Trash and Vaudeville off-the-rack outfits, at the finale the raw, talented students stand at the foot of the stage and sing right in the audiences' faces, a la Rent's hit "Seasons of Love". But Inappropriate is not based on an opera, but simply on real life--and it shows.
What struck me most about the show was its music. Not just the songs, although many of them, particularly "Real", sung with intense emotion by the supremely talented Diane Schwartz, are quite memorable and moving. All through the evening, the show is bolstered by an incredible, ongoing soundtrack--the score is an integral part of this production, more so than any musical I can think of. The non-stop music mirrors the characters' emotions and also spurs them on to greater heights. Without the music, there would be no piece.
The extremely gifted and versatile group of musicians that provides the music is no ordinary house band. This is not a group of people that accidentally came together to play for the good of a theatrical production. The band that backs Inappropriate is called House of Red. They have been playing together on and off for years now, have just released their first independent CD, and are ready to rock the music world.
But what an odd gig for a rock band--that has played such illustrious New York City clubs as The Bitter End, Shine, and the Bottom Line--to take. How did it happen, I wondered. "Because my best friend, Michael, wrote the show!" exclaims Ann-Marie, the exotic front woman and lyricist of the band.