Kelly McCreary and Jarid Faubel in Perfect Harmony
(© Jim Baldassare)
Kelly McCreary and Jarid Faubel in Perfect Harmony
(© Jim Baldassare)
Perfect Harmony, now at the Acorn Theater, sounds like a rip-off of Glee but the truth is this 100-minute tuner was seen several years back at New York City's 2006 Fringe Festival. Unfortunately, this tale of two combative high school singing clubs -- one all-male, the other all-female -- is simply too arch and too modestly sung to engender the same sort of enthusiasm as the FOX-TV hit.

While this show, written by Andrew Grosso and a crew of actor-singers calling themselves The Essentials, charmed in its initial incarnation, the entirely new 10-member troupe playing the two groups, The Acafellas and The Ladies in Red, have done the show no favors. Furthermore, Grosso has unwisely encouraged his players to overcook their characterizations and their intramural conflicts.

The 10 characters on view -- tyrannical Melody McDaniels (Dana Acheson), pint-sized and squeaky-voiced Mickey D (Kate Morgan Chadwick), open-faced, well-built JB Smooter (Jarid Faubel), Tourette's-Syndrome-afflicted manager Kerri Taylor (Marie-France Arcilla), mute-except-when-singing Jasper Mergh (Clayton Apgar), low-self-esteem Philip Fellowes V (Kobi Libii), doesn't-want-to-be-seen Valerie Smooter (Faryl Amadeus), dance-crazed and Jesus-loving Megan Beans (Kelly McCreary), thoughtful and creative Lassiter A. Jayson III (Robbie Collier Sublett) and nerdy Simon Depardieu (David Barlow) -- are familiar types. But many of the actors, notably Chadiwck and Barlow, are so excessive in their determination to be funny -- especially as they frequently have to deliver feeble laugh-lines -- that they're regularly grating.

Still, one can take some pleasure in hearing such familiar chart-toppers as "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun," "Beautiful," "I Don't Know Much," "Get Ready," "Chain Gang" "Eye of the Tiger," "We Belong" and others -- more often than not arranged, and nicely, by Ray Bailey.

When the performers solo, the cast's so-so vocal quality becomes apparent, with Sublett, Agpar, and Faubel faring best. (To the group's credit, though, they sing without benefit of amplification.) And when the ensembles harmonize, they make pleasant sounds, but the enterprise remains far from perfect or even gleeful.