[Editor’s Note: Glory Days closed on May 7, having played only its opening night performance.]
Change is a funny thing. Some people can’t wait to embrace it, while others vehemently fight any kind of deviation from the status quo. That dilemma is at the heart of Glory Days, the problematic new musical by neophytes Nick Blaemire and James Gardiner that’s just had a head-spinning transfer from Virginia’s adventurous Signature Theater to the Circle in the Square.
The 90-minute tuner will likely be of primary interest to young men who still consider Superman’s powers in contrast to Batman’s a worthwhile debate or those who find the group’s growing pains hitting them squarely where they live. As for older audience members, some may consider the whole enterprise laughably inconsequential, while others may very well decide Glory Days is not only a likable undertaking, but even a valiant one.
Will (Steven Booth), Andy (Andrew C. Call), Skip (Adam Halpin), and Jack (Jesse JP Johnson) bonded when they were kids because they weren’t agile enough to play with their high school’s star athletes. Now they’re having a post-first-year-of college midnight reunion on the school’s football field, because Will has it in mind to play a practical joke on all the jocks who disdained him and his pals back in the day. But their get-together begins to fall apart when the quartet discovers cracks in their once-fraternal attitude once Jack reveals that he’s gay (in a welcome ditty, “Open Road,” which Johnson delivers with vibrant sweetness).
The boys react to their new reality in varying ways. Will, who’s been keeping a diary of the four-way friendship, struggles to face its obsolescence and figure out his life’s next chapter. Skip, the most mature, is the first to accept the inevitability of change and wax wise about it. Jack understands he’s positioned himself as different and has to live accordingly. The slow-witted Andy feels betrayed — and perhaps he has been by the others’ unacknowledged sense of their intellectual superiority. (Ironically, Andy is the one wearing a jersey blaring the legend: “Freshman. I get older. They stay the same,” courtesy of savvy costumer Sasha Ludwig-Siegel.)
Director Eric Schaeffer and his four actors — all of them imported from the Signature staging — maximize the potential of Gardiner’s libretto. The impression that Booth, Call, Halpin, and Johnson give is that they might well be reliving their own personal disillusions. And while the foursome makes no false moves, they do make many, many moves — most of them up and down the confounded ringing bleachers that comprise the entirety of Jim Kronzer’s set. Watching the hyperkinetic Call bounce trampoline-like around them — has he secretly concluded his character suffers from ADHD — soon becomes a definite irritant. So does the huge wall of lights Kronzer and lighting designer Mark Lanks have put behind the bleachers — the new rock-musical cliché that appears to be no more nor less than an additional way to demand the audience’s attention.
Glory Days has an even larger drawback than those lights: Blaemire’s score, in which rhythm and propulsion are deemed more important than melody. After only a few numbers, the effect is that one long song is being constantly pumped into the auditorium. Only with a quartet called “Forget About It,” which the boys sing at each other in white heat, is the vocal and instrumental haranguing genuinely effective.
On balance, the show would be a tough little musical if it just had a tough little score. As it is, Glory Days is a solid 10-yard-gain for its young creators, but very far from a touchdown.