REVIEW: The Breakfast Club Musical (pH Theatricals)

Bouncy score gives this “Breakfast Club Musical” potential

 5 main characters of "Breakfast Club"

pH Productions presents

The Breakfast Club Musical

Directed and adapted by Jason Geis
with direction assistance from Scott Hogan
Music by
Jessica Hunt, lyrics by Jason Geis
musical direction by Jessica Hunt
At
Studio BE, Lakeview
Through April 29
(more info)

Reviewed by Leah A. Zeldes

The archetypes of high school — The Brain … The Jock … The Princess … The Basketcase … The Criminal — surely live on in generation after generation, yet I confess I don’t understand the continuing fascination with John Hughes’ teen-angst film "The Breakfast Club." Set in Shermer High School, a fictional version of Hughes’ Northbrook alma mater, Glenbrook North, the film has led to dozens of YouTube video reenactments and two local stage productions this season alone — all from people who were surely in Pampers, or unborn, when the film premiered in 1985. Like other full casttributes, the latest homage, pH Productions’ The Breakfast Club Musical, takes its dialog and most of its humor directly from the film. The castDan Aho as Principal Vernon; Sally Anderson as Carla the Janitor; Brett Mannes as Brian Johnson, the Brain; Drew Current as Andrew Clark, the Jock; Martha Hearn as Claire Standish, the Princess; Tristan Tanner as Allison Reynolds, the Basketcase; and Matthew Gottlieb as John Bender, the Criminal; backed by a chorus — re-enacts the Saturday when five mismatched teens were unexpectedly stuck together for a day-long detention. More  fully realized than the staged version now at iO Theater, pH’s production, reportedly three years in the making, benefits from an original score of 17 songs by Jessica Hunt with lyrics by adapter and director Jason Geis. With Hunt accompanying on keyboards, this show feels like a workshop production with aspirations rather than a sketchy one-off, and as such, it deserves to be held to a higher standard.

Hunt and Geis’s bouncy pop sound fits well into the theme of the show. Songs range from "An Imperfect Place," a strong ballad sung by Bender to explain an illicitly closed door, to the campy "I’m Only a Virgin," performed by Brian when he’s caught exaggerating his conquests (and hammed to full extent by Mannes) to the lively "Bizarre" by Andy. As a lyricist, Geis is a little too apt to go for the cheap laugh. This show didn’t really need two songs about virginity, and the humor value of obscenities set to music is of the "funny once" variety. Other songs seem incomplete, such as "Come Monday," which just repeats the same line over and over again. And although the song-and-dance numbers refer to the plot, they often seem inserted rather than interwoven, like musical intervals spliced between reels of the film.

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The cohesiveness of the story may suffer a bit for anyone who’s never seen the movie. For example, the chorus adds impact to the songs but needs explaining. Who are these extra people and what are they doing there? When the full cast is on stage,Cassie Speerschneider’s choreography becomes a little cramped. Performances waver. Gottlieb, who resembles the young Marlon Brando, and the flexible-faced Mannes carry most of the show. Hearn and Current each shine in a couple of star turns, but fade when the focus isn’t directly on them. As a director, Geis needs better awareness of sightlines. It would have played better on stage, for example, for Allison to dump her purse on a desk where the audience could see it, but instead she upends it onto the floor, out of view of the back rows.

This isn’t the place for a lengthy discussion of why so many entertainment enterprises — from local troupes like this one to Broadway companies to Hollywood studios — seem bent on rehashing old movies instead of making up new stories of their own, but I like the way Mac Rogers put it in his commentary on the spate of screen-to-stage adaptations that hit Broadway a few years ago: "A musical doesn’t need to be original to be worthy, it just needs to not suck." The Breakfast Club doesn’t suck — in fact it’s quite engaging — but it doesn’t quite go far enough in re-imagining the original. There’s potential here that hasn’t yet been realized.

 

Rating: ★★½

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REVIEW: Almost, Maine (The Gift Theatre)

Gift Theatre creates a real charm offensive

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The Gift Theatre presents:

Almost, Maine

 [a special dinner/theatre event]

by John Cariani
directed by Barlag, Belcuore, Blandford, Branham, Dibo, Gawlik, and Jones
featuring: Dan Aho, Burfete, DiNicola, Emmons, Jim Farruggio, Ed Flynn, Aemilia Scott, Justine Serino, and Kyle Zornes
through February 21st
(more info)

review by Paige Listerud

Much about John Cariani’s play, Almost, Maine, mirrors Jules Feiffer’s 1977 play Hold Me!  Both are collections of light, comical sketches regarding the uncertainties of the human heart. The essential difference between them is that the poignant neuroticism of Feiffer’s work grounds itself in the daily struggles of urban—okay, New York City—existence, while John Cariani situates his characters in the benignly rural and utterly imaginary location of Almost, Maine.

securedownload So, Fieffer’s characters fret, not only over their past or latest or lack of personal relationships, but also the political and social uneasiness of their times. By contrast, Cariani’s small town residents exist far, far, far away; not just from anything resembling everyday concerns—quite a thing to think about in a play emerging from 2004—but also reality itself. All the struggles of falling in and out of love dominate the minds of Almost’s inhabitants as if there were nothing else going on in the world. Moreover, the play steps further from reality in the literal use of sight gags based on our clichéd idioms about love.

All of which would be a treacly mess in less proficient hands. But Gift Theatre Company’s numerous directors and actors demonstrate a delicate, persistent care for the material, eliciting every critical ounce of human sympathy from the moment. The pain of abandonment or loss receives the wry and gentle touch called for by the text. Humor is almost born, not from the lines, but in the space between the lines as characters contend with what direction to go in the pursuit of romance. In the process, Capriani’s deeper wit about the precariousness of creating or preserving love shines through. It’s a magical place, Almost, Maine—but magical places can be as dangerous as the real ones. Almost is fraught with the possibility of losing one’s big chance at love, even when it is staring you in the face.

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Since the play has such a short run—and only for benefit purposes–GTC hadn’t planned to have it reviewed. Too bad, they’re getting a good review anyway. At the very least, Almost, Maine is a real charm offensive, a solid showcase for cast and crew. Plus, if it’s perfectly timed to be “date theater” for the masses this Valentine’s Day, at least it’s a work about love that both is and is not about the happy ending.

 

Rating: ★★★

 


THE DINNER:

A four course Northeastern Seafood Dinner For Two @

The Gale Street Inn

  • Crabcake Appetizer
  • New England Chowder
  • Lobster And Mussel Clam Bake For Two
  • Cranberry Cheesecake

Production and dinner are only available as a coupled event:

“The Seafood Duet”
A Very Special Event Generously Sponsored by The Gale Street Inn
To Benefit The Gift Theatre Company

Dinner For Two at Gale Street Inn + Tickets for Two to The Gift = $75.

A Value of $60 for Your Meal + A Value of $50 for Your Tickets = Sweet!
Tax, Tip, Beverage Not Included.
A Non-Seafood Substitute Menu Will Be Available Upon Request.
Sorry, No Refunds.  Exchanges Subject to Seating Availability.

Please give yourselves plenty of time to savor and enjoy your meal before the show! Patrons also enjoy the freedom to park their car in Gale Street’s lot!

For Evening Performances:
Please plan on being seated at Gale Street by 6:00pm and no later than 6:30pm.

For Matinee Performances:
Dinner served after the show starting around 4:30pm.
Before the show, please plan on being seated by 1:00pm.

As a courtesy to you, the audience, and the actors, there is no late seating at The Gift.

For tickets call (773) 283-7071, or
BUY ONLINE!
View Reservation Policies