Thursday, May 27, 2010

Wanting - The Kid - Musical Review

The Kid - Acorn Theater at Theater Row - Off-Broadway, New York, NY - ***1/2 (out of 5 stars)
Music by Andy Monroe, Lyrics by Jack Lechner, Book by Michael Zam based on the book by Dan Savage, Directed by Scott Elliott, Musical Staging by Josh Prince
Runs until May 29th 2010

I LOVE Dan Savage's book The Kid: What Happened After My Boyfriend and I Decided to Go Get Pregnant (and his followup The Commitment: Love, Sex, Marriage, and My Family too). Savage's books are essential readings for anybody who is contemplating parenthood or marriage (gay or straight), and his easy to read style and funny openness into his own personal life with his partner Terry is consoling and inspiring. I've reread both books many times over, but especially The Kid, so I have a particular kinship to Savage's book.

And now they've turned it into a musical! Of course! But you know, for a book about a gay couple trying to adopt, making a musical out of it makes total sense since it hits all the right demographics.

The musical as it turns out is a lovely and charming little show that traces Dan Savage's basic storyline and heightens some of the drama without losing much of Dan's humour, much of it from Christopher Sieber's (Shrek, Spamalot) adorable performance as Dan Savage himself (a famed sex columnist). The musical isn't perfect, with many of the songs sort of muddling into each other from one bland melody to another, but Savage's heartfelt story, Michael Zam's efficient book, and Chris Sieber's loving performance gives the show enough joy that it won me over.

The songs aren't terrible, but they definitely could use a punch. When they work though, like "Behind the Wheel" (a song sung by Bacchus, the father of the baby Dan and his partner Terry were expecting to adopt), it hints at the tuneful and emotional depth Andy Monroe and Jack Lechner's songs can achieve.

While the musical follows the book as a series of events that eventually lead Dan and boyfriend Terry (Lucas Steele above with Sieber) through the adoption process, including being picked by a homeless girl Melissa via an open adoption in Portland, all while Dan's mother and friends fit into their impending parenthood lifestyle, the show rolls along smoothly from moment to moment but by the end of it all, only the overall narrative arc of getting the actual baby becomes memorable. There are amusing moments, and some beautifully emotional scenes, especially between Dan and Terry, but I wished Dan's mom Judy (the loving Jill Eikenberry, L.A. Law) played more of a presence.

Theatre faves Susan Blackwell ([title of show]) and Ann Harada (Avenue Q, both above with Sieber and Lucas Steele) appear in multiple key roles (though Harada was out the night I went) while Tyler Maynard (Altar Boyz) is quite funny in his multiple roles.

Jeannine Frumess (above with Sieber, Steele and Harada) sort of fades into her ghostly role of Melissa, a character that is supposed to disappear in front of you, but makes for an odd musical theatre character. Frumess does her best to grunge herself up but it's when she finally makes her final choice after the birth of the baby, that she makes Melissa's life truly heartwrenching.

The small Michael Wartella (stellar as JoJo in Seussical) explodes with his clean voice as the dirty and downtroddened Bacchus, the father of Melissa's child. Wartella, with his stall stature, gives Bacchus less of a physical threatening nature and punches up the emotional threat instead, and Wartella manages to fully flesh out the small part from a plot point into a real human roadblock. Wartella is hidden (as much as possible in such a small cast in a small theatre) into the ensemble for much of the rest of the show as other characters but at least we get to hear his beautiful voice as Bacchus in the later parts of the show.

The Kid the musical nicely wraps itself around Dan Savage's personal story, and while it loses some it's witty editorials and more serious discussions on adoption and parenting, the show does a good job of getting the right dramatic flow as a base, and now just needs some fine tuning. The music is serviceable but not unlikeable and it too, with some fine tuning, can become something memorable and heartfelt based on some of the stronger songs. While the ensemble cast usually has to remain relegated as a collective character of Dan and Terry's friends, a few manage to eek out a memorable performances out of their smaller, multiple roles (particularly Brooke Sunny Moriber, Maynard and Blackwell) and I only wish Eikenberry and Wartella had even more to do.

Still, this is Dan's story and Christopher Sieber's show and Sieber doesn't disappoint, earning our trust, love and sympathy while being a slightly self-absorbed gay man (aren't we all?). Sieber's riffs with Steele's Terry, and their constant fights over Bjork play out perfectly like they do in the book. The whole musical is still packaged as a nice and fluffy yuppie wholesome story (plus a dildo reference here and some sex talk there. Savage IS a sex columnist after all) and while it plays it safe and middle of the road, the musical has so many winning elements that I was willing to overlook the flaws and enjoy all its charms.

Vance at http://tapeworthy.blogspot.com

1 comment:

DuchessKitty said...

Great review that I whole-heartedly agree with. I got to see "The Kid" opening night (total fluke - given tix literally 25 minutes before curtains rose) and really enjoyed it.

I was sort of irked by the somewhat artificial drama they produced for the story, and the music didn't stand out. But again, I had a great time and I really think that they've created something that can be enjoyed by a mass audience.

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