October 17th, 2009

storyteller doll

Adding Machine: A Musical

The only one of Elmer Rice's plays I really have any familiarity with is Street Scene and, frankly, that familiarity is more with Kurt Weill's music for it than with the play itself. So I don't have a basis for saying how faithful Joshua Schmidt and Jason Loewith's musical adaptation of The Adding Machine, which I saw Thursday night at Studio Theatre, is. I pretty much went to see it on the basis of it being a musical. Well, that and being able to get a half-price ticket on Goldstar.

The basic story involves Mr. Zero, who is "celebrating" his 25th year at The Store. He has problems with his wife and is bickering with his female assistant. He expects something to happen for his 25th anniversary - but what happens is decidedly not what he was anticipating.

My enjoyment (or lack thereof) of musicals is highly dependent on the music. I understand why Schmidt chose to use a lot of dissonance and minimalism and generally unmelodic music to underline the dehumanization of the workers, but that doesn't make for pleasant listening. There was one lovely song, however. Daisy (the female assistant) sings a number called "I'd Rather Watch You" to describe her crush on Mr. Zero. That's much more conventional musical theatre material and it works nicely.

All of the performers did well with what was given to them. Kristen Jepperson was very appealing as Daisy. I'll also give high marks to David Benoit in the challenging role of Mr. Zero.

Overall, I can't recommend the show. It's not like I expect musicals to be all sweetness and light - after all, I love Sondheim. But this was just too bleak, despite a few moments of humor and some interesting staging (which may have had as much to do with the physical constraints of the theatre as anything else - it's playing in the small 4th floor theatre, not one of the main stages at Studio).