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|A CurtainUp Review
Reports from friends and readers persuaded me to catch up with the show during its final month on Theater Row. I'm glad I did. While the material co-conceived by the school's founder A. Michael DeSisto and Lonnie McNeil, is indeed an amalgam of much pain and youthful insecurity, Inappropriate is never self-indulgent psychobabble set to music. Instead it is an entertaining and touching musical collage. As musical productions go it's a small show -- 8 cast members without elaborate costume changes, 5 musicians, and simple staging (lighting designer Ryan Schmidt and set designer Shane Ballard give new meaning to the possibilities inherent in a few painted scrims and movable blocks). Small in size as it is, Inappropriate is big in all the ways that count -- energy, talent and heart.
The young men and women who deliver the fourteen numbers perform like seasoned pros. They are vigorous and sensitive interpreters of Michael Sottile's engaging score as well as agile dancers. The vignettes which frame each song range the gamut: from the pain of coping with divorcing parents, confusion about sexual identity and being born by artificial insemination, the lure of drugs and the joy of first love. Though the singers aren't relating their own histories a first-hand quality rings through their performances. Even the darkest stories are presented with such straightforwardness and feeling that by the time Liz and the rest of the Company belt out the uplifting "Everything That You Are" they've got you applauding everything they've done.
The current reprise of the show's limited run earlier this year was mounted as a tribute to Lonnie McNeil, the director who shepherded Inappropriate from idea to Off-Broadway production. The tragedy of McNeil's untimely death, combined with the exuberant young cast of unknowns and the gritty material, have prompted comparisons to Rent. (McNeil died of AIDS--which led to choreographer Ray Leeper and composer-lyricist Michael Sottile to jointly take the helm).
While understandable the link between the two shows is basically -- well-- inappropriate. Despite the fact that some of the numbers like "Mexico" are self-contained little dramas Inappropriate, unlike Rent, is not a book musical but a very moving, outstandingly performed biographical concert with a score which anyone who purchases the recently released CD (so far available only at the theater) will listen to often. Rather than to look at this as an Off-Broadway, Rent-a-like, enjoy it for what it is.
Before I close, it's worth noting that there were quite a few parents with teens in tow (especially fathers and sons) at the performance I attended. I would not recommend this as a family show, however, if the kids in the family are under fourteen. On the other hand older audiences need have no fears about the decibel level. Even with the performers wired with those ever proliferating ugly head mikes, the music is acceptable (and enjoyable) for even the most sensitive older ears.