NYMF 2011 Roundup #4
Reports on Date of a Lifetime, Jack Perry Is Alive (And Dating), and My History Of Marriage.
Romance abounds in Date of a Lifetime, the utterly charming new musical at the McGinn/Cazale Theatre, featuring book and lyrics by Carl Kissin and music by Robert Baumgartner, Jr. Under Jeremy Dobrish's assured direction, the work is a breezy fun-filled evening that is sure to appeal to couples no matter what stage they are in their relationship.
The premise is simple. Katie (Farah Alvin) and Marvin (Jamie LaVerdiere) arrive at a speed-dating event, and after an amusing montage of their other potential matches of the evening, they meet one another. As they talk, they imagine what a future with each other could be like, first from Marvin's point of view, and then from Katie's. While there's plenty of passion and sentimentality, the imagined scenarios also touch upon affairs, divorce, illness, and senility.
The catchy and upbeat score contains several highlights, including the comically earnest "Endlessly," the goofy but sexy "Put on Your Seatbelt," and the show's best song, "Roller Coaster," which Katie sings as she imagines a first date with Marvin at Coney Island, as well as the ups and downs that their relationship might take.
The two performers are incredibly appealing, with strong voices that harmonize well. Katie is the slightly more neurotic of the characters, and Alvin captures this quality without overdoing it. LaVerdiere has a way with facial expressions, and delights in his rendition of "Monsters," which he sings to Katie and Marvin's imagined child.
Both Alvin and LaVerdiere throw themselves wholeheartedly into the dances choreographed by Wendy Seyb. These sequences are both whimsical and dynamic -- which is also a great way to describe the show as a whole.
-- Dan Bacalzo
Jack Perry's romance is turning sour. That is to say, the romance he has with New York City, where the youngish gay man has lived for ten years. His intimate affairs with actual men, on the other hand, have gone beyond sour to nonexistent, something that his friends are determined to remedy in Jack Perry Is Alive (and Dating), a nicely composed but thinly plotted new musical at the McGinn/Cazale Theatre.
The book and lyrics by Harrison David Rivers and Daniella Shoshan attempt to take a smart look at love in the digital age. But they miss the mark with a weak premise. After receiving a romantic text message from a mysterious source, Jack makes the incredibly unlikely decision to show up unannounced at the doorstep of some longtime ex-lovers, wildly assuming that one of them must be trying to rekindle an old flame.
Sadly, the resolution to the text message plotline feels overly contrived. And it would have been useful if a script that rightly criticizes the false expectations of Hollywood romantic comedy did not end up replicating the worst of that genre.
The show is economically and energetically directed by Pirronne Yousefzadeh. Her cast -- led by an actor named Jack Perry, interestingly enough -- is uniformly good. They infuse the often-hackneyed dialogue with freshness and wry humor, and bring beautiful, tight harmonies to Julia Meinwald's catchy soft-rock score with a hint of jazz.
Josh Sauerman is particularly strong in a variety of supporting roles, both comic and serious. And Melissa Joyner, who portrays all the women in the cast, has a commanding stage presence. Jake Loewenthal and Charles Baskerville don't always rise above the stereotypes of their characters, but they, too, bring a lot of sexiness and verve to the piece.
One final character featured in this 80-minute work is the city of New York itself, evocatively represented in a series of slide projections. Matt Brogan, the scenic and graphic designer, succeeds where the librettists fail, in creating a world of dimension and enchantment.
-- Andy Buck
An embittered divorcee attempts to pen an opus on matrimony through the ages, while also looking for love herself, in My History of Marriage, playing at the Peter Norton Theatre. It's a cute premise but it's one that's unfortunately squandered by its creators Lee Kalcheim (book and lyrics), David Shire (music and lyrics) and Sal Kalcheim (additional material), who have overcrammed the piece with subplots (including one more engaging that the show's main arc) and digressions into cloying skits.
These latter moments come as the writer, Nan (played with strident vulnerability by Lois Robbins), sporadically works on her book and during these sequences -- including one about a cavewoman (also Robbins) attempting to enter her society's workforce -- audiences may find themselves cringing at the hoary jokes that can bring to mind the 1960s series Love, American Style.
The sense of the musical's indebtedness to this show -- and variety shows in general -- also extends to Nan's private life. During the course of the musical, she contends not only with her ex, Peter (Steve Blanchard), with whom she has a bit of "déjà screwing," but the sexual advances of publisher Henry (Brian Sutherland), to which she eventually succumbs, and the warm companionship offered by Rabbi Weiss (a delightful turn from Philip Hoffman), whom she meets while sharing a cab in the rain.
As if Nan's romantic woes were not enough, the show also examines the nuptial crises that her agent Judy (a delightfully puckish turn from Bonnie Franklin) faces with girlfriend Yvette (Blair Ross); and Nan's son Aaron (the winning Michael Liscio Jr.) finds himself falling for Nan's assistant Ellen (the utterly delightful Brittney Lee Hamilton). It's this latter couple that ends up winning audiences' hearts and ultimately stealing the show, not only because of the charming quirkiness they bring to their roles, but also because they're given the musical's most infectious melodic numbers, which are a welcome respite from the more dissonant and angst-ridden tunes that Shire has written for Nan.
-- Andy Propst