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With Glee

Too little of this new musical about five prep school boys lives up to the show's title.

Zach Bandler, Dan Lawler, Max Spitulnik,
Christopher Davis Carlisle, and Jason Edward Cook
in With Glee
(© Gerry Goodstein)
About halfway through the new musical With Glee, now being presented at the Kirk Theatre, five boys at the elite Maine prep-school Winchester sing and dance their capricious way through a delightful song called "Normal." Unfortunately, nothing else that comes before or after in this new tuner, for which John Gregor has provided book, music and lyrics, rises to its level -- or even above the level of mildly amusing -- under Igor Goldin's effortful direction.

The five early adolescent boys (played by actors in their twenties) are rich-kid Scott (Zach Bandler), trouble-making Nathaniel (Christopher Davis Carlisle), possibly gay Kip (Jason Edward Cook), attached-to-inanimate-object Clay (Dan Lawler), and thieving Sam (Max Spitulnik). Each of the matriculated students abhors the other miscreants on sight, but eventually, they bond over their shared adventures.

The storyline meanders through a single school year during which the five take a few classes, bumble and fumble as the school's inept football team, go on an aborted trip in a stolen car to visit insecure Nathaniel's imaginary girlfriend, are punished for their rash act, and then mount a play as a distraction while Sam does some more thieving.

All of these incidents register as deeply random and none amount to much. Especially humorless and seemingly endless is the aforementioned play, Tomas, a one-act supposedly written by Kip that concerns a German soldier in World War II falling among English school boys, befriending them, and then turning on them. Does it have a point? Is it Kip's metaphor for the situation shared by his buddies and him? No answer is to be found.

Incidentally, adults do appear throughout With Glee, and in keeping with the traditions of similar youth-oriented enterprises, they are all thick-headed and destructive. While the tousled-haired Greg Horton only has to change accents and affect to portray an obtuse blue-blood and teachers who bang Latin and chemistry into reluctant heads, the stocky Erin Jerozal faces the unpleasant task of playing a cocktail-sipping mother as well as a counseling teacher repeatedly called into the wings on her cell phone in a device to allow the boys scheming time.

As for show's title -- in the end, this opus seems to have little to do with glee of any sort.


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