So this is going to be a little love sonnet to Signature Theatre. Their new show is charming, delightful, funny, touching and a smorgasbord of other superlative adjectives but simply put, watching the show made me happy. It made me smile. It even made misty eyed a couple of times. I left the theater feeling lighter than when I went in, humming a tune and immediately thinking about the best way to describe the experience.
The story is straightforward; middle-aged former teen pop idol, Evan, finds out not only that he’s has a daughter but he has a grandson just at the time in his life when he’s trying to revive his career and naturally high jinx ensue. The story follows Evan’s progression from self-involved individual who has never had to be concerned for anyone other than himself to the person who will sacrifice his own interests for the benefit of those he loves. Of course there are obstacles and there is the inevitable moment when his sense of self-preservation nearly ruins everything but really you never doubt that all will be well in the end. It’s a pretty standard RomCom narrative arc, but it works and when you do it well and use really talented actors it just turns out a really entertaining and thoroughly enjoyable show. I really do think that this is one of those instances where all the parts come together so well that they exceed the sum of their total. It is a musical based on a movie, which is one of my pet peeves, but unlike the current and oft maligned by me trope of taking a well-known and successful movie just to cash in on the name recognition this show is based on a relatively unknown (in this country) Korean movie called “Speedy Scandal.”
The book and lyrics and music by Bran Hill and Neil Bertram, respectively, are sharp and witty. Carolyn Cole, as the daughter, does a great job and has an incredible voice. As much as I love it when she belts out a number the song that really moved me and got me all misty eyed was when she sang the lullaby “Little Frog” to her son. It is a wonderful evocative moment that defines the mother/son relationship in a few brief lines, especially when it’s revealed to be the continuing link between mother, father, daughter and grandson.
The opening number for act two, “Everybody Loves a Scandal,” is as slick and entertaining as a number as you could get and worthy of any stage anywhere. Bobby Smith as the erstwhile villain of the show does a fantastic soft shoe number as he practically slithers his way across the stage in an absolutely delicious performance. I know this show is still in the workshop phase but that number is perfect; don’t change a thing.
The cast in general had great chemistry, especially Ms. Cole and James Gardiner as daughter and father, which is pretty amazing since I’m pretty sure they’re not that far apart in age. They have a couple of really great duets.
This show is the inaugural show from the new SigLab and is part of Signature Theatre’s on-going efforts to promote original productions for the stage. At $30 dollars a ticket the show is a steal and I’m really tempted to see it again toward the end of the run (July 27th) to see what changes they make.