Susan Blackwell, Christopher Sieber, and Lucas Steele
in The Kid
(© Monique Carboni)
Susan Blackwell, Christopher Sieber, and Lucas Steele
in The Kid
(© Monique Carboni)
The terrific new musical The Kid, presented by The New Group at Theatre Row, is taken from an unlikely source: renowned sex advice columnist Dan Savage's memoir of the same name about he and his partner's attempt to adopt a baby. But thanks to the book by Michael Zam, consistently clever lyrics by Jack Lechner, music by Andy Monroe, and direction by Scott Elliott, the gamble more than pays off.

Indeed, the tuner does a good job capturing the tone of Savage's book, which is filled with irreverent humor, frank talk about sex, and the understandable fears and anxieties that go hand in hand with the anticipation of becoming a parent. Both Dan (Christopher Sieber) and his boyfriend Terry (Lucas Steele) come across as real human beings, with flaws, petty resentments, and a deep, abiding love for one another and for the child they hope to adopt.

The majority of the songs push the narrative forward while also revealing character. An early highlight is the patter song, "They Hate Us," in which Dan and Terry attend an adoption seminar, and worry about what all the other prospective parents think of them. "If You Give Us Your Baby" is a hilarious number in which Dan pens a letter to prospective birth mothers filled with all the things he ought never to put in such a document, while simultaneously skewering stereotypical notions of the gay lifestyle.

Dan and Terry have chosen an "open adoption," in which the birth mother gets a say in who adopts her baby and also gets to continue to be part of the child's life. "Her Name Is Melissa," beautifully captures the joy of finding out that they've been picked by someone, which gives way to a more reserved and somewhat pessimistic outlook as they discover that this potential birth mother drank and did drugs during the early part of her pregnancy, and is currently homeless.

As Melissa, Jeannine Frumess gives a marvelously understated performance, and her solo, "Spare Changin'" gives a better picture of how she gets by, and also explains a little of the gutter punk scene, which is a bit different from most people's ideas about homelessness. Much of the dramatic tension within the musical comes from whether or not this minimally communicative teenager will go through with the adoption.

Adding a further complication is the birth father, Bacchus (Michael Wartella), and whether or not he will interfere in the process. The presence of Bacchus during Melissa's pregnancy is the biggest departure that the musical's creators have made from their original source material, and adds a considerable amount of suspense into the "will they or won't they get the child" scenario, even for those who already know the outcome of the story. Bacchus also gets one of the best songs in the show, "Behind the Wheel," and Wartella sings it beautifully.

The only number that seems a little out of place is the disco-flavored anthem, "Seize the Day," in which Dan, Terry, and their friends go out clubbing. It feels inorganic, musically generic, and doesn't seem to advance the story, other than setting up the fact that Dan has a hangover the next day when he and Terry get an important call from the adoption agency.

Sieber is excellent in the central role of Dan; he's able to communicate volumes with his eyes and facial expressions, and has a finely honed sense of comic timing and vocal delivery. Steele is consistently engaging, and particularly moving in the song "Beautiful," in which he holds the kid for the first time in the hospital room.

The supporting cast features a number of fine performances, particularly from Susan Blackwell as the adoption counselor Anne and Jill Eikenberry as Dan's mother Judy, who delivers the sweet and affecting song, "I Knew." Rounding out the cast in multiple roles, often played with flair, are Kevin Anthony, Ann Harada, Tyler Maynard, Brooke Sunny Moriber, and Justin Patterson.

Derek McLane's one-room set is fine for the scenes that actually take place in Dan and Terry's apartment, but is less effective when the action shifts to other locales. What helps is the work by animator Jeff Scher and video designer Aron Deyo, which is projected onto the large windows at the back of the apartment, and includes an admittedly sentimental final image that nevertheless ends the show on just the right note.