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NYMF Reviews 2019: Chance

An older man meets a younger man online in Richard Isen's new musical.

Grant Richards and Tad Wilson star in Richard Isen's Chance, directed by Nicolas Minas, for the New York Musical Festival.
(© Kristen Meloche)

About two-thirds of gay couples meet online, but for some people, computerized dating still seems like frightening uncharted territory. That's the case for Gen X-er Gregory (Tad Wilson), the fiftysomething man in search of love in Richard Isen's fantastical yet sleepy musical Chance. Isen's piece, which resonates with tributes to Oscar Wilde, silver-screen divas, and other gay-man tropes, sparkles now and then with numbers that evoke Jonathan Larson, and showcases a standout performance by Terry Lavell in drag as the Lady. But this clichéd, unnecessarily long show (two hours with intermission) feels like it was forgotten in a drawer and has just recently had the dust blown off it.

Part of that feeling comes from the nature of Gregory's stumbling, unconvincing romance with callboy Chance (Grant Richards), which begins when Gregory makes contact on Chance's website. After a botched first meeting, in which Gregory, who came through the AIDS crisis but never recovered from the loss of his friends, shows us the anger behind his insecurity, Chance falls for this wealthy daddy. Gregory later suffers a heart attack that will reveal Chance's true colors. Is it money, love, or maybe a little of both that motivates the young male escort to give chase? Whatever the answer, under Nicolas Minas's slow-paced direction, it is punctuated with a yawn.

The saving grace here is the Lady, Gregory's imaginary guardian angel who takes the form of a movie queen (think Dorothy Dandridge meets Gloria Swanson) and dispenses life lessons to him with fabulous arm-sweeps of wisdom. Lavell, lithe and exquisite in Molly Seidel's silver-screen-inspired gowns, knows how to belt a tune with jazzy sophistication in songs like "The Way of the World" and "Beyond You." Channeling Norma Desmond, the Lady doles out quippy advice to Gregory that consistently generates laughs. In this otherwise bland story, Lavell's Lady provides the hot sauce.

All three actors show their vocal chops in the lovely harmonies of "Days Going By," but fine voices are not enough to hold up the slender tale and hard-to-believe emotional roller coaster ridden by Gregory and Chance, with Richards doing a bit of scenery chewing in the final scene worthy of Faye Dunaway in Mommie Dearest. It's not entirely his fault; Isen's melodramatic writing almost demands it. I'm all for paying homage to the legends of the past, but unfortunately, this musical about the complexities of modern dating seems stuck there too.