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|A CurtainUp Review
Out of the Blue
A new, old-fashioned, real-life musical comedy
This little musical with it's hokey, old-fashioned plot and dozen and a half hummable tunes is hardly likely to be the little engine that huffed and puffed from off-off-Broadway to Broadway. Nor is a Tony on the horizon, though it should certainly win jazz musician-poet William Benton a retroactive Dad of the Year award. How many fathers will go out and rent a piano to write a musical for a teen-aged daughter who's crazy about old-fashioned movie musicals -- the kind starring Judy and Mickey and Ginger and Fred that they don't make any more?
According to a recent article in The New Yorker (in which many of Benton's poems have appeared) a group of Benton's friends decided that this summer '83 fun enterprise might just be a musical that could make them all rich. Benton was persuaded to rewrite his strictly for fun show and so, five years later, we have the recently opened production of Out of the Blue.
The show's musical numbers include one ("It's Up to Us") which is catchy enough to warrant its several reprises. A few, like "You're An Ass", have a nice Sondheim-ish bittersweet flavor.
The whole score is wrapped around a rather silly, decidedly predictable play-within-a-play book: a group of high school kids and their teacher are rehearsing a musical set in a nudist colony of which the prudish principal disapproves . . . several romantic subplots involve one of the kid's divorced parents and her crush on another student . . . and, true to the old-fashioned musical comedy genre, the show goes on, the whimpy principal ends up singing, and dancing and the romantic entanglements are happily resolved.
The current limited run production is still a bare-bones enterprise. Thanks to its talented and engaging 9-member cast and pianist Darren R. Cohen doing the work of a whole orchestra, what might seem amateurish somehow charms and entertains in the decidedly unimposing 85-seat 30th Street Theatre. Even if this show does not rise up again once it completes its run, you may well see more of the talented foursome playing the teenagers. Their elders also do a fine job, with Frank Stancati especially amusing as the prudish principal.
Just in case I'm wrong and Out of the Blue becomes a big Broadway hit, the production notes below include a complete cast and musical numbers list for those who like to track the evolution of their favorite hits.