Restoration comedy and 1980s-style rock 'n' roll are a rather odd combination, and the new musical Man of Rock, at TBG Theatre, doesn't really make a great case for melding them together. Featuring book and lyrics by Daniel Heath and music by Ken Flagg, and adapted from George Etherege's 17th-century work, The Man of Mode, the musical is an ambitious project, but sadly, conceiver and director Jessica Heidt struggles to find a consistent tone for the production.
Set on the Jersey Shore in the year 1986, the musical centers on Dorimant (Nick Cordero), a rock singer who hasn't had a hit in a couple of years. What he has had is a string of girlfriends, and as the show begins he is phasing out Suzie Love (Lisa Birnbaum) for her best friend, Missy (Danielle Levin). However, once the beautiful Antoinette (Vanessa Reseland) arrives on the scene from Connecticut, his fickle affections seem ready to find a new target.
The show is at its best when the performers are singing. While a few of the numbers -- particularly the ones from up-and-coming singer JJ Rock (J. Michael Zygo) -- are intended as parodies of 1980s music, several are rather good songs. These include Missy's rock ballad "Love Doesn't Matter," Antoinette and Dorimant's duet, "Walk Away From Me," and Dorimant's signature song, "Come Down Angel."
Unfortunately, the majority of the actors flounder during the dialogue scenes. Part of the problem is that they play their roles too broadly, seemingly winking at the audience by demonstrating how ridiculous the characters are. But the cast also seems to have difficulty with some of the script's more elevated language. Cordero makes a game attempt at Dorimant's flowery manner of speaking, but his speeches never really spring to life -- and neither does the musical.
-- Dan Bacalzo