April 17th, 2015

storyteller doll


Last weekend I saw Soon, another new musical at Signature Theatre. As I have mentioned before, their production of new musicals is one of the major reasons I subscribe to Signature. I find it impressive that this was their third one this season. It was written by Nick Blaemire, who was part of the team responsible for the notorious Glory Days, a big hit at Signature, which flopped badly on Broadway.

Soon is a small scale musical. It’s 90 minutes, with no intermission. There are only four characters and the music is provided by a keyboard, two guitars, and a bass. The show opens with the President of the United States announcing an international emergency due to rapidly increasing global warming. The main character is Charlie, a 20-something woman who is having a hard time facing the impending end of the world. She has a gay roommate (Steven), a sort-of boyfriend (Jonah), and a mother (Adrienne). She also has a Jewish fish, named Hershel.

Charlie’s basic attitude is that, since the world is ending, there’s no reason to do anything but lie on the couch watching news (Wolf Blitzer reminds her of her father) and bad reality television. She doesn’t show up to her job, plans to open a bakery but can’t be bothered to buy ingredients, and is mean to everybody trying to get her to do anything. It turns out that there is a reason – beyond the news – for this, but the story is told in a very non-sequential way so we don’t find out until near the end.

There was some funny material, although some of it also made me cringe. I loved a bit of good news from global warming in which wildfires incinerate the Real Housewives of Atlanta. I had a more mixed reaction to a song called "Bar Mitzvah for the First Jewish Fish," which relies on Steven’s drunken reaction to Jonah rescuing the fish after his bowl is dropped on the floor. He refers to Jonah as "a Jewish James Bond" and later calls him "O-O-Semite." I will admit to laughing, but there’s really no point in the joke because Jonah being Jewish has absolutely nothing to do with the anything else in the show.

The music was pretty forgettable, with the exception of "Bohemia Paradiso," a tango in which Adrienne reminisces about her youth in the East Village. Most of the lyrics to most of the songs came across as trying too hard. I was reminded of David Zippel’s "Sondheimlich maneuver" crack (from The Goodbye Girl). Lots of rapid rhymes do not alone make for wit.

The performances did a lot to help. Natascia Diaz was right on the mark as Adrienne. Joshua Morgan was hysterically funny as Steven. Alex Brightman was a highly likeable Jonah. The weakest link was Jessica Hershberg as Charlie, but I suspect the problem is that it’s hard to make somebody care about a character who doesn’t seem to care about anything or anyone.

Overall, I think this was the weakest of the new musicals Signature produced this season. It isn’t terrible, but I don’t expect it to go anywhere in the future.