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Review: “See Rock City” at Barrington Stage is Worth A Detour

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Gwen Hollander as a waitress and Benjamin Schrader as the lonely traveller at Barrington Stage; photo by Kevin Sprague

If you’re the type of person who worries about the future of American musical theater in the age of Disney on Broadway. hie yourself to Pittsfield where Barrington Stage Company‘s Musical Theater Lab is staging a thoroughly modern and all-American musical called See Rock City & Other Destinations. You will be reassured that a new generation of artists have the creativity and chops to invigorate the most American of art forms.

See Rock City is not your typical book musical with a narrative and a happy ending. (The book and lyrics are by Adam Mathias and the music is by Brad Alexander.) It’s set up as an episodic travelogue, as if you are seeing the best scenes from six different musicals. The thread that carries through is that each scene is set at a different tourist destination—The Alamo, Coney Island, Niagara Falls—and every character is, of course, on some sort of journey to find his or her true self.  There are three sisters who take an Alaskan cruise to scatter their father’s ashes in Glacier Bay as he requested, and they reprise a charming song about snow queens that they sang as children on such wintry cruises. There’s the waitress who’s never been out of state who is whisked off by solo diner to see the wonders of Rock City. There are two privileged Manhattan prep school boys who cut class to go to Coney Island for the day where they discover that they may be more than just best friends.

Every song is a story in itself, the kind of tunes that a certain sort of torch singer might add to his repertoire someday. And the book is sharp and clever. There is never a moment during the 90 minute show when you are not fully captivated. The casting for this show is exceptional.  Everyone has a good strong voice (which is crystal clear because they are not amplified) and, more importantly, they all can act through a song—making you laugh and then tugging on your heart strings.  For anyone who loves musical theater, See Rock City & Other Destinations is relevant, entertaining, and worth going out of your way to see.

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Posted by Dan Shaw on 08/18/08 at 09:16 AM • Permalink