Despite an enormously appealing performance by Beth Glover, this musical about the beginnings of the Genesius Theatre in Pennsylvania underwhelms.
At the center of the musical is Glover's gloriously theatrical and enormously appealing Jane, and given the actress' work it's easy to understand why this woman would be so fondly remembered by the people whose lives she touched. Unfortunately, while Glover's magic with the role makes Jane's incandescence readily apparent, her performance is not enough to energize LJ Fecho's meandering and overwritten book, which often stalls as tangential stories come to the fore (a scene in which a just-pubescent director has cast four girls as Tinkerbell is unnecessary and slightly embarrassing). The same can be said of the show's cloying preteen narrator (Tyler Bell).
Additionally, Fecho has created a host of stereotypical characters beyond the show's principals. There's the lesbian techie (Melisa Klausner) who has an unrequited love for Jane, the young thug (Dane Reis) whose life is turned around by working with the group, and the fey community patriarch (Paul Carlin) who runs a rival theater. As for the kids who work on the shows, they're played appealingly by the ensemble, but despite some signature tics, the characters are rarely anything more than generalized teenager types.
Composer and lyricist Michael O'Flaherty -- who actually co-founded the theater with Jane -- has worked to create a contemporary sound for the show, but his music rarely has a voice of its own. Instead, the songs often sound like pale imitations of other songwriters, primarily Stephen Sondheim. There is one exception: the lush romantic ballad "No One Has Ever Heard My Song," that sounds as if it might have come from an operetta. As performed by Lauren Lukacek and Gardner, it nearly stops the show.