By: T.E. McMorrow
If laughter is good medicine for the soul, then the world premiere of "My Life is a Musical" at the Bay Street Theater in Sag Harbor, is an absolute overdose of fun.
"My Life is a Musical" is a sendup of musicals, rock ‘n’ roll, rock critics, and anything else talented, young composer/lyricist/author Adam Overett can think of. The premise is simple: a man who hates musicals is trapped in one.
Ever since Parker (Howie Michael Smith) was a child, everyone he meets breaks into song , music only he can hear. A ride on the bus is a dance number, complete with chorines.
An accountant, he is sent on the road to accompany a failing rock band’s tour. There boy meets girl, in the form of TJ, the band’s manager (Kathleen Elizabeth Monteleone), who idolizes the band’s lead singer, Zach (Justin Matthew Sargent,) who is in love with himself. All the while, Parker is haunted by musical numbers, and hounded by Randy, a paparazzi-style music-scene blogger and critic (Robert Cuccioli.)
If all this sounds like silliness, it is, wonderfully so. At the same time, as with all good comedies, there is a dramatic spine to the piece that keeps it on track, and on point.
The performers are strong contemporary musical theater artists. Smith is on stage for pretty much the entire show, and pulls it off nobly, giving us a nebbish we can love. Monteleone has a fine comedic sense, and a musical talent. With her beautiful voice, she pulls off something that sounds easy, but is anything but- she deliberately sings one section flat, in character, telling Parker her voice is like "fingernails on a chalk board," during a hysterically funny karaoke song. Sargent is superb as the shallow lead singer who can’t write lyrics to save his life, until Parker fills his head with the songs he has been hearing all along. Sargent also has the charisma and the voice to make us believe he is a star.
What can one say about Cuccioli’s performance, other than "perfect?" Overett’s writing, at its best, has a brevity to it, as does Cuccioli’s acting. There are no wasted movements or moments, as he takes non-stop shots at our funny bones.
Brian Sills, Adam Daveline, Danyel Fulton, and Wendy Bergamini fill out the Broadway-level cast.
Speaking of music, I think Overett is at his best with his ballads, where he is funny and touching, while at the same time revealing the characters’ inner angst.
The show has a bit of a feel of a rock opera, which is nice when it is jamming along. Overett’s lyrics have a lovely recitative quality, starting right from the top of the show, where you can hear Stephen Sondheim’s influence, which is true not just of this artist, but of contemporary musical theater in general.
I do think the first act needs a bit of tightening. There were a couple of stretches that were a tad repetitive, musically, which could be avoided with some nip and tucks.
Also, why no overture? An overture sets the tone like a bullet-point presentation of the evening.
This is kickass four-piece band: Vadim Feichtner, pianist, musical director and conductor, Charles Buonasera on bass, Rich Adams on guitar, and Ed Chiarello on percussion, with orchestrations by Oran Eldor.
Marlo Hunter has staged this musical exceptionally well. No missteps here.
The creative team she has put together makes great use of the space. David Arsenault’s set puts us in the mood right from the beginning, with a kitschy rock ‘n’ roll feel. Paul Miller uses spots as part of his light design, whether he is creating the feel of a live rock show, a Broadway musical, or a dark alley. Give prop designer Kathy Fabian a script like this to work with, and you are guaranteed some very funny surprises: loved the James Bond martini glass, especially in the hands of Cuccioli. Costumes by Amy Clark are fittingly funny, and Tony Melfa’s sound design holds its own with the rock music.
"My Life is a Musical" reminds me a bit of the 1960s-era Off-Broadway show "Dames at Sea," in its hysterical "no holds barred" satirizing of the musical art form- maybe instead of calling it a musical, we should call it a "comsical." Whatever you call it, be ready to laugh.
"My Life is a Musical" runs through August 31, Tuesday through Sunday, curtain at 8 p.m., except Sundays and Tuesdays, when curtain is 7 p.m. There are matinees at 2 p.m. every Wednesday and Sunday.
Photos: Lenny Stucker and Jerry Laminoca