By Patrick Christiano
While there is much to like even admire and enjoy in Don Chaffer’s new musical Son of a Gun, the tale concerning a father and son conflict is all over the map without focus. The result is a heartfelt engaging mess. That Chaffer is a passionate storyteller is evident in his sensitive lyrics and smooth melodies. The book, which Chaffer co-wrote with Chris Cragin, however, feels contrived and is not sure what to be, a jukebox musical or a staged concept album. Director Gabriel Barre’s choice to stage the evening like a concert tour adds to the confusion.
The music for the show actually began as an album, which Chaffer wrote after his father’s death, and the plot for the story is loosely based on Chaffer’s life. A Midwestern family on tour with the band their alcoholic father, Winston, created runs into a deep divide between the father and son. The eldest son, Danderhauler, wants to leave the group to check out other things, but Winston will do anything to keep them together. When Winston is diagnosed with cancer the doctors must remove his tongue, and Danderhauler feels this is his chance to finally get out from under his father’s shadow by leading the band on tour, but discovers he is haunted by the domineering man instead.
The book attempts to get too much into the story concerning Danderhauler’s on again off again relationship with the love of his life Lucy Sunshine, the band’s opening act. The plot jumps around with all the sub-plots and we lose sight of the main story.
Van Hughes of "American Idiot" fame is very good as Danderhauler and the most authentic in the uneven heartfelt cast. Ryan Link makes a rather bland symbolic Cowboy Jesus. Rebecca Hart is excellent as Lucy Sunshine, while Lori Fischer and Jimmie James turn in earnest sincere one dimensional performances as household elders, Elmadora and Winston respectively. Alex Branton is good as the youngest son, Khorky, and especially amusing when he sings a campfire tune about circumcision.
Chaffer’s infectious tunes are the best part of the evening and there are twenty beautifully perfomed musical numbers in the show. Chaffer’s wife, Lori, contributes additional music and lyrics, but according to a program note, the material on the album is different from the group’s typical fare.
Presented by Firebone Theater Son of a Gun is now playing at the Beckett Theater, 410 West 42nd Street, between 10th & 11th Avenues Nov 6-18. 212-239-6200, 800-432-7250 or telecharge.com… Photograpy:Angela Dykshorn