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A CurtainUp Review
In My Life
Scenery and costumes are important production assets. But you don't pay your money to applaud the scenery, even though Moyer and Zuber, as well as their colleagues Christopher Akerlind with his lush lighting and projectionist Wendall K. Harrison with her authentic cityscapes, give a touch of class to In My Life. Not that this new musical, masterminded by Joseph Brooks, a man who can juggle hats with Houdini-like ease (writer, director, composer-lyricist), doesn't have its own oddly mesmerizing appeal. Brooks has concocted a fantasy so daffy and contrived that it will have you teetering between amazement at his unbounded hubris and the ever escalating outlandishness of its soap opera-ish romance and the banality of the music and lyrics.
So just what makes one of In this Life's song title, "Doomed" an omen of its likely longevity? Going with the trend for musicals to parody other musicals, Brooks has created a heavenly dweller who in his earthly life was a Leon Bloom-like accountant, but is now a heavenly opera impresario who makes scouting trips to earth for inspiration. It's hard to imagine this Winston ever being anything but flamboyant given that David Turner makes a banquet of this more super campy than sinister version of the MC in Kander and Ebb's Cabaret crossed with the multi-costumed duo from Charles Ludlum's The Mystery of Irma Vep. Not so Michael J. Farina's shlumpy Al who's really the chief impresario, God. Al's musical tastes like those of the multi-tasking Brooks run to jingles which of course leads to a whimsically self-referential ditty called "Listen to Your Mouth" which extols the praises of Dr. Pepper (one of the commercial tuners that made Brooks rich enough to indulge his ambition to be a contender on Broadway).
But I digress -- as this show does constantly. Winston's forays to earth lead him to two young lovers -- Jenny (Jessica Boevers), who edits dating ads at the Village Voice and guitar strumming J.T. (Christopher J. Hanke) who have potentially tragic dysfunctions that might just suit characters in a tragic opera. She has rather inconsistent obsessive-compulsive tendencies; he has Tourette's Syndrome which makes him errupt in burst of rhyme (often inappropriate). Though they pooh-pooh their problems and there are no feuding families to keep them apart, Brooks spins out his "Life Turns on a Dime" anthem by upping the ante for Winston to have his "Perfect For an Opera " end by giving J. T a brain tumor that requires instant and dangerous surgery. And yes there's a catchy song about a tumor and a lively dance of death, complete with skeletons.
But as you listen to the relentlessly schlocky pop tunes with doggerel lyrics that even Hallmark would find too syrupy and repetitious (not only does Brooks out reprise Andrew Lloyd Webber but he reprises line after line within the songs), it's obvious that this Romeo and Juliet will have a happy ending. It comes about thanks not only to the schlumpy God's interception but that of J. T's little sister Vera (engagingly played by a talented young charmer, Chara Navarra) who was killed in an accident and now skateboards around the literally great filing cabinet in the sky. Other characters tossed into the undisciplined plot mix are J. T.'s mom Liz (Roberta Gumbel) who was killed with Vera and who gets to sing an Italian aria -- yes, in Italian; Nick (a strong-voiced Michael Halling), the member of the rock band Jenny's best friend Samantha's (Laura Jordan) still mourns and who just happened to be the driver of the car that killed little Vera.
Despite Boever and Hanke's sincere performances, there's little about them individually or together to make you care much whether they live happily ever after on earth or join the larger cast up in heaven. I somehow missed Mr. Brooks' sound alike film You Light Up My Life, in which he also did everything except perform, but there's no denying that his resume is impressive. And while this is probably the most oddball musical libretto I've ever encountered, it's a folie de grandeur that wasn't as unbearable to sit through as Good Vibrations a few seasons ago. Still, I prefer lemon as a flavoring for my tea and found the giant lemon that lands on stage at the end of the intermissionless hour and forty minutes as prescient as it is corny.
Easy-on-the budget super gift for yourself and your musical loving friends. Tons of gorgeous pictures.
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
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>6, 500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by our editor.
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