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A CurtainUp Review
Gemini, The Musical
Albert Innaurato's Gemini, which started out in the 70s as a play, has become a musical. Commissioned by the Prince Music Theater, Gemini, The Muscial is now in World Premiere with book by Albert Innaurato and music by Charles Gilbert. They collaborated on the lyrics. As it turns out, I liked this new musical much better than I liked Gemini when I saw it on Broadway in its original run.
This little story takes place in a concrete backyard in South Philadelphia where Francis, the protagonist, a bright, alienated, nerdy, Italian-American Harvard student faces weight and sexual orientation issues. The latter issues don't cause shock waves these days. But they, along with weight concerns, are perennial problems that people face in each generation, and they fit right in with all the other passions and problems treated in the story: love, ethnicity, neighborhood, family ties, booze, attention-getting, Callas, transit modes, and more.
So often a musical's songs have a bland, interchangeable, been-there sound. But these songs are refreshing and musically interesting. The lyrics, artfully constructed and intricately fitted, advance the story and provide insight into the characters, as the tunes shape the mood. Perhaps the loveliest song is about rusted old trolley cars. There are moments when it seems there should be music when there isn't any. If there are any takers for suggestions: A leitmotif for Maria Callas, muse and refuge to Francis, would be a wonderful addition at moments when Francis is very low.
Overall, the orchestration is a little thin and it doesn't always seem to fill the space. At times the music would benefit from a Phil Specter wall of sound (!) to give the show more swagger and to overcome a slight sense of hesitation, despite the music's stylishness.
The actor/singers all sound good, particularly Barry James as Francis. Anne DeSalvo, in a double role, does a great comic diva as Maria Callas, and Todd Buonopane, who has a dream role (Herschel), does a fantastic job with it. Robert Picardo (the original Francis in Gemini on Broadway, and also the holographic doctor on Startrek Voyager), is a warm, engaging Fran. Linda Hart revs things up with her Bunny character, and Jillian Louis and Jeremiah B. Downes are convincing in their brother and sister preppie roles.
Ost's well balanced and articulated set recalls the old Broadway set and takes it up a few notches from there, with the contribution of Martin-O'Shia's complex lighting design. The handling of the bedroom set piece, and the direction of the action there, rated appreciative chuckles from the audience on opening night.
At times a touch over-wrought, the book still works because the warmth of the characters carries it, and also because the story no longer relies on shock value as it once did. With a once controversial, but now almost folksy focus, plenty of laughs, and music that can do whatever is called for and do it well, this is an entertaining show.
6, 500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by CurtainUp's editor.
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