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A CurtainUp Berkshire Review
A Little More Alive

Pot At A Funeral
might Seem Unusual

— From opening number by Nate which shows him using his usual escape-from-reality mechanism after his mother's death from a long illness. His defiant musical monologue continues with Pot At A Funeral/Is Kinda Like Poop In A Urinal.

L-R: Van Hughes and Michael Tacconi
An opening in which a lead character sings about smoking pot at a gathering of friends and neighbors after his mother's funeral does hold some promise of an unusual new musical. Too bad that the big teddy bear from his childhood on the couch with him lives up to the signal it sends of cutesy touches to come. Worse yet, everything about that opening exemplifies what's unusually disappointing about this latest offering from Barrington Stage's Musical Theater Lab with its worthy mission of supporting young musical talent.

I was looking forward to seeing whether Nick Blaemire could be as good working behind the scenes as on stage (his playing the lead in Found contributed mightily towards that recent musical). Unfortunately, Blaemire though clearly talented, versatile and ambitious, is not ready for prime time as a triple tasker.

For starters, at twenty-nine Nate, the stoner son at the center of this world premiere, is a bit too old for a coming of age story. Van Hughes as well as Michael Tacconi as his accomplished, go-getting younger brother Jeremy are attractive performers. But they're saddled with material not worthy of their talents. Both have fine voices that the over-miked sound system and Vadim Feichtner's band drown out. Actually, this might be considered as much a plus as a minus, since the lyrics are for the most part treacly and awkward. The voice numbing sound system also hurts the rest of the ensemble which includes Broadway veteran Daniel Jenkins as their father.

That said, this story of a family in grief over a painful death and having to cope with family tensions and a newly discovered secret about mom's past might work — that is, if Blaemire, who's a better composer than book and lyric writer, hadn't been determined to do it all himself. Even when he turned the libretto over to someone else it didn't help Glory Days to escape an inglorious quick closing.

Blaemire has fared better being on stage, as he did as the lead in the high profile Off-Broadway musical Found . For sure, A Little More Alive would have benefited from his focusing on his composing since even his strong sense of rhythm and melody here suffers from being too one-note as well as the unnecessarily over-miked band.

Director Sheryl Kaller has done her best to make the show a little more alive, with handsome production values. These include a splendidly efficient set by Kris Stone, expertly lit by Jeff Croiter, as well as Caite Hevner Kemps story enriching projections of the family's home movies. But when Kaller and choreographer Lisa Shriver have Nate deliver one of the better numbers, "On A High" it seems more a an effort to keep things lively than a move towards a solid, clarifying climax.

Despite the excellent stage craft and able cast , there's no overcoming the show's inherent weakness — the inability to really keep the audience engaged. Consequently, even with a few touching songs, especially the exuberant final "I Miss," this is a long 95 minutes.

A Little More Alive
Book, Music And Lyrics By Nick Blaemire
Directed by Sheryl Keller
Cast: Van Hughes (Nate), Michael Tacconi (Jeremy), Daniel Jenkins (Gene), Nicolette Robinson (Lizzie), Emily Walton (Molly); (Also film cast: Rachel Bay Jones-Maggie, David Christopher Wells-Robert, Oliver Stern- Young Nate,Rowen Williams-Young Jeremy, Joseph Kennedy-Teenage Nate, Billy McFadden - Teenage Jeremy)
Sets: Kris Stone
Costumes: China Lee
Lighting: Jeff Croiter
Sound: Lindsay Jones
Projections: Caite Hevner Kemp
Orchestrations: Charlie B. Rosen
Vocal Designer: AnnMarie Milazzo
Choreography: Lisa Shriver
Stage Manager: Mark Dobrow
Running Time: 95 minutes, no intermission
Musical Theater Lab production at St. Germain Stage, Pittsfield
Reviewed by Elyse Sommer at 7/22/15 press preview
Song List:
Pot at a Funeral/ Nate
Home Movies (Prelude)/ Gene, Nate and Jeremy
Remember It Differently /Jeremy
Every Single Memory/ Nate and Jeremy
Good Morning /Lizzie, Jeremy, Gene and Nate
Nobody Tells You /Lizzie, Jeremy, Gene and Nate
Stick Around /Lizzie
Home Movies /Gene, Jeremy, Lizzie and Nate
Here /Gene
On A High /Nate
Driving /Jeremy, Nate and Lizzie
With The Trees/ Molly and Nate
Quartet /Lizzie, Jeremy, Nate and Molly
I Miss /Gene, Jeremy and Nate
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