There's no denying the power of Ned Massey's music in Bloodties, at the TBG Theatre. His songs throb with passion and his lyrics are often intimately revealing. Unfortunately, the autobiographical rock musical is saddled with a clunky book that prevents the piece from building a satisfying momentum.
Told through episodic scenes that occasionally jump backwards and forwards in time, the musical chronicles the high and low points of Massey's life -- what he poetically refers to in the song "Mess" as "the garbage and the grail." There's plenty of dramatic potential in his stories of an abusive father, a stalled career, relationship woes, and other subjects. And yet, the primary characters are not sufficiently developed and the dialogue frequently sounds forced and unconvincing.
Massey, who stars as himself within the show, is at his best when he gives himself over to his music, which can be emotionally powerful. Less successful are his various monologues delivered to and sometimes railing against God, which tend to come across as clichéd and more than a little self-pitying.
The supporting cast, all of whom play multiple roles, do some good work. Katie Thompson's rendition of "Something You Should Know" has a breathy, rock-fueled sexiness reminiscent of Melissa Etheridge. Christopher Kale Jones plays an angel and has an appropriately heavenly voice which is nicely showcased in several songs. Nancy Ringham shines in a late scene as Massey's mother, who sits down for a heart-to-heart with her son. George McDaniel does a fine job as Massey's perpetually angry father, and also as the kinder, gentler father-figure John Hammond, the real-life legendary talent scout who once said that Massey could become the next Dylan or Springsteen.
And indeed, listening to the music within the show that potential is immediately apparent. Especially impressive is the title song, a ballad Massey addresses to his father that encapsulates a world of hurt, hope, and reconciliation.
-- Dan Bacalzo