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Travels With My Discontent: A New Musical Revue
By Elyse Sommer
Note: this is NOT a review! Barrington Stage's idea of offering Berkshire theater goers to experience the work of new musical theater talent got off to an impressive start with Burnt Part Boys which I did review (the review ). This was a full-bodied book musical. Though the staging was minimalist, the talent was not, and the bare bones production values were so ingenious that they actually enhanced the show.
When the second slated LAB production, another book musical, ran into problems due to the illness of one of the creative team members, the LAB's artistic producer William Finn gamely put together a replacement. Naturally, the always challengingly short rehearsal time of summer theater productions became even more of a challenge.
Finn stepped up to the plate as director and smartly built on the good will generated by Burnt Part Boys and used that show's talented Charlie Brady along with three first-rate performers with solid Broadway credentials. He has built the resulting revue around the music of Deborah Abramson with whom he has worked in the past. To tie the twenty songs with lyrics by various composers (including Finn) there's a mostly fictional Abramson biographical narrative (tagged as "testimonials" and written by one of the performers, Chip Zien). However, since the performers are still working with scripts in hand this is very much a work in progress and I'm honoring the company's request to hold off on a regular review and do this brief report instead.
So what can you expect? Typical of any revue, these twenty songs have been culled from other shows -- most probably unfamiliar to Pittsfield audiences -- though there is a personalized finale, "Independence Day in Pittsfield" by The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee's Rachel Sheinkin. And typical of everything Barrington Stage does, even with one piano and a cobbled together connecting thread, count on Travels With My Discontent to be staged with the company's trademark penchant for giving a small budget production a generous dash of pizzazz
I'm unfamiliar with Ms. Abramson's work so even if I were reviewing this show, these are the sort of songs that are hard to evaluate after just one hearing. Naturally, I'm familiar, as you probably are as well with Mr. Finn's and Ms. Sheinkin's work. I also know and very much admired another listed collaborators, Peter Mills. Marco Polo, which he and Abramson worked on together and which is represented here with several songs. CurtainUp has reviewed several of thos talented composer/lyricist's musicals (Ilyria. . . Pursuit of Persephone. . . Iron Curtain). Any of these shows deserve additional lives. I therefore hope that one of them will show up either as a future Lab or Main Stage production.
In the meantime, the new Revue runs through August 6th and I look forward to the final offering which like Burnt Part Boys, is a book musical and though the musical team, Katie Baldwin, Julianne Davis and Gihieh Lee are unfamiliar to me, I have seen some excellent work Off-Off-Broadway by its young director, Jack Cummings III.