According to Lincoln Center's new LCT3 project at its slogan, it takes "New Audiences for New Artists." It also takes new critics, hence the establishment of Theater Talk's New Theater Corps in 2005, a way for up-and-coming theater writers and eager new theatergoers to get exposure to the ever-growing theater scene in New York City. Writers for the New Theater Corps are given the opportunity to immerse themselves in the off-off and off-Broadway theater scene, learning and giving back high-quality reviews at the same time. Driven by a passion and love of the arts, the New Theater Corps aims to identify, support, and grow the arts community, one show and one person at a time.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

FRINGE 2006: Only a Lad

Reviewed by Aaron Riccio

Eric Shelley, Jenny Weaver, Joey Calveri & Barret Hall are "On the Outside" in Andrew Loschert's Oingo Boingo musical, Only a Lad. Photo/Andrew Loschert

As the story (or at least the author's note) goes, writer Andrew Loschert, fresh out of grad school, got the idea for Only a Lad while listening to the Oingo Boingo Greatest Hits CD. His idea was sound (no pun intended): use the narrative-driven eccentricities of Danny Elfman's '80s rock band and make a musical out of it. The concept was in the right key too: a good-at-heart gangster who just happens to be different from the "cool cats" gets framed for murder and must find a way to save himself and reconcile his spirit. The thematic nature was there too: if we've learned nothing else from VH1, it's that America Loves the 80s. So what went wrong?

Many, many things, the first (and most important) being the technical design. The inability to hear the lyrics over the band and the inability to hear the band over the static crackle of feedback makes it difficult to gauge just who's to blame for the lackluster production. Loschert's written a decent frame for Elfman's excellent music, and though his efforts come across as a straight-up jukebox adaptation, his source material really is that good. Also, his performers have great voices, which is why it's more the shame that we can't hear Barrett Hall and Joey Calveri. These two really capture Oingo Boingo's spirit, both in look and feel, and even the numbers that don't fit the book (like "Little Girls") rock all the same because of that x-factor.

This cultural exploitation is nicely finessed by director Rob Seitleman. In my eyes, he has more than redeemed himself for his last project, Paradise Lost; he's taken an incomplete project and strung together a visually stimulating '80s homage. What the musical lacks, and I suspect Seitleman and his choreographic partner Jason Summers know this, are group numbers and big choruses -- both of which are difficult with Oingo Boingo's music and Loschert's script.

Speaking of which, if we strip away production gaffes, Loschert's own problems come back into focus, which is that he hasn't fleshed out his idea. The story is straight out of Grease or Cry Baby or any other movie about teen culture clashes, and while Oingo Boingo should be on Broadway, this isn't the vehicle for them. Not yet, at least. Slap some more meat on these bones and figure out a way to work "Nasty Habits" into the show, and Only a Lad may one day find its way onto the Great White Way. Here's hoping.

Harry De Jur Playhouse (466 Grand Street)
WED, AUG 23 @ 9:15; THURS, AUG 24 @ 9:30

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