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A CurtainUp Review
Rated P for Parenthood

Parent Teacher conference, what’s up, dawg (I’m gonna shave my chin)
Parent Teacher conference, what’s up, dawg (tell me my kid fits in)?

— From “Parent Teacher Conference”
(Clockwise starting with top left) Courtney Balan, Chris Hoch, David Josefsberg, Joanna Young
(Photo credit: Carol Rosegg)
My wife was supposed to see Rated P for Parenthood with me, but ended up having to cancel so she could take care of my daughter while she gets better from an ear infection. Right before the show she texted me with the following update: “Your daughter is watching Word World and singing about Frog and Duck.” If you can identify with any of this story, you’re exactly the kind of audience Rated P For Parenthood, opening at the Westside Theatre this week, is targeting. Even if you can’t, you might still enjoy seeing a musical about children and adults ——and how fast the first group becomes the second.

Rated P For Parenthood hits all the expected targets from one of the (often) most frustrating and (sometimes) most rewarding experiences in life. Told in a series of songs, interludes and vignettes, the show presents stories, ranging from birth to college, about children and the parents who are alternately bemused, angered, and moved by them (sometimes all at once). All are apparently based on true experiences from lyricist and book writer Sandy Rustin.

Actors Courtney Balan, Chris Hoch, David Josefsberg and Joanna Young all turn in a series of fine and varied performances, from parents to children to soccer coaches to uptight headmasters. The show moves so quickly (perhaps too quickly—the show is barely an hour and twenty minutes with no intermission) that the audience hardly has time to register any confusion even if it were so inclined.

Those looking for a coherent narrative line will be disappointed. This is a sketch comedy musical, and director Jeremy Dobrish plays to the strengths of the show by moving it along at a breakneck pace. As you might expect given its episodic nature, it's all a trifle erratic.

Some songs are eminently forgettable, trite and clichéd, while others are clever and hysterical; for example, “Parent Teacher Conference,” in which two fathers get pumped up with a Beastie Boys rap before going to meet their child’s teacher for the first time, and “Wild Romance,” where a drive to drop off the kids at summer camp is the backdrop for a father thinking about rekindling romance while they’re out of the house. There are a few other more sensitive numbers as well, like the moving “Prayer for Ellie,” in which a mother watching her daughter ride off in the school bus for the first time asks the spirit of her mother to watch over her child. The less successful tunes are too obvious and Hallmark-card-ish to really hit home.

Beyond the up and down quality of the narrative, it’s the Hallmark feel which is the most problematic aspect of the show. This is a kind of parenthood, but it’s mostly the Riverdale or Park Slope variety (I speak as a member of the former group). I’m sure the sentiments are heartfelt, but a lot of the parents I know would probably love the chance to angst over spending twelve thousand dollars on braces, or to tell off the headmaster of an elite private elementary school. Issues like broken homes, single parents and teen pregnancies are barely hinted at, and even the one single sex couple portrayed in the show doesn’t seem to have any serious challenges to speak of. Of course this is a comedy, and realism isn’t the stated aim. But it’s hard not to feel at times that this is an awfully sanitized and white-washed version of being a parent, and I think it could have taken a wider view without undercutting the genuinely funny moments.

Despite these quibbles, Rated P for Parenthood is fun and sometimes hilarious and has a great deal of warmth at its core. If you’ve ever wondered whether your kids will ever going to grow up — and then wondered how they grew up so fast— you'll enoy this production.

Rated P for Parenthood
Book and Lyrics: Sandy Rustin
Music and Lyrics: Dan Lipton and David Rossmer
Director: Jeremy Dobrish
Choreographer: Rachel Bress
Music Director: Meg Zervoulis
Cast: Courtney Balan, Chris Hoch, David Josefsberg, Joanna Young
Scenic Design: Steven Capone
Costume Design: Emily DeAngelis
Lighting Design: Michael Gottlieb
Running time: One hour, twenty minutes with no intermission
Westside Theatre, 407 West 43rd St., (212) 239-6200
From 2/23/12 to 4/08/12; opening 2/29/12
Tues. - Thurs. @ 7 p.m., Fri. - Sat. @ 8 p.m., Wed. & Sat. @ 2:30 p.m., Sun. @ 3 p.m.
Tickets: $89.50
Reviewed by Dr. Gregory A. Wilson based on February 23rd press performance
Song List: "Prelude," "Push It on Out," "Man in a Uniform,","Little Boy," "Wild Romance," "Tick Tock," "The Game," "Morning Love Song," "Prayer for Ellie," ,"Driving in D Minor," "Parent Teacher Conference," "To Be Continued. . ."

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