Tomorrow Morning

Kokandy Productions presents a chamber musical about marriage.

Tina Naponelli and Neil Stratman in Tomorrow Morning, directed by John D. Glover, at Theater Wit.
Tina Naponelli and Neil Stratman in Tomorrow Morning, directed by John D. Glover, at Theater Wit.
(© Michael Brosilow)

As the audience take their seats for Tomorrow Morning, the musical's cast of four is already onstage, keeping themselves busy typing, primping, or noodling away on a guitar. They keep to themselves at first, but when the lights dim and the music begins, two relationships take shape: Catherine (Teressa LaGamba) and John (Carl Herzog) are preparing to sign their divorce papers after a decade of marriage, as Kat (Tina Naponelli) and John (Neil Stratman) giddily anticipate the night before their wedding. Catherine and John, and Kat and Jack are, we learn quickly, the same couple, separated by 10 years. The musical gives audiences a panoramic view of a marriage from first blush to final curtain, which is not exactly new material (comparisons to Jason Robert Brown's The Last 5 Years are impossible to ignore), but Kokandy Productions at Theater Wit is quickly making a good name for itself as a home for innovative non-Equity musical theater.

The younger couple has chemistry in spades, even while they are shown planting the seeds of marital strife. As groom-to-be John, the golden-voiced Neil Stratman jokes, gyrates, and jumps all over the stage like a Jack Russell terrier. Tina Naponelli is more restrained as the neurotic and forward-thinking Kat, but when she cuts loose, it's a pleasure to watch.

Teressa LaGamba shines as the older and bitterer Catherine, who has not stopped worrying about the future, but now frets over the past as well. LaGamba's voice soars through Wythe's score, and she can convey heartbreak with a single look or a word, but she doesn't seem a day older than Tina Naponelli, despite being tasked with playing the same woman a decade later. There is an attempt to age her up with a bun and a blazer, courtesy of costume designer Robert S. Kuhn, but it doesn't help quite enough. LaGamba is paired with Carl Herzog as Jack, who time has transformed into a petty man with small-time dreams and major regrets. Though Herzog's performance is not a not bad one, he falls short against his three high-energy costars.

The score, by Laurence Mark Wythe, is a frothy pop concoction without much substance. In the hands of a less inventive director with a weaker cast, the songs could easily have become a slog of repetition, with only one or two numbers distinguishing themselves musically. Luckily, Kokandy Productions elevates the material into an enjoyable 90 minutes. Director John D. Glover and scenic designer Ashley Ann Woods tightly and cleverly intertwine the two couples in shared, but wholly distinct, living spaces. Under music director Kory Danielson, the four lovers' voices come together with precision. With the audience on two sides in a very small space, sound designer Mike Patrick and sound engineer Kirstin Johnson have done a commendable job keeping the cast's voices clear and understandable.

The book, also by Wythe, is heavy with trite rom-com tropes, from the bride panicking about her wedding dress to an important voicemail missed at a dire moment. As seen in "Look What We Made" a moving duet between Jack and John about fatherhood, Tomorrow Morning is strongest when it avoids romantic cliché and allows its characters to self-reflect.

If you are a fan of sentimental romantic comedy, then hurry to Tomorrow Morning. But even if you're not, there's plenty to enjoy in this production.

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Tomorrow Morning

Closed: August 28, 2016