nytheatre.com review by Allison Taylor
July 15, 2007
The pleasantly effervescent Mod may be lighter and less substantive than a leaf of lettuce, but that's all right. The new musical, currently playing at 59E59 Theaters in the East to Edinburgh festival, displays a slew of fresh-faced up-and-comers, eager and able to entertain.
Mod follows a group of American teenagers stricken with Beatlemania as they try to track down the touring Fab Four. Rory desperately wants to sing for the quartet, with the hopes of it becoming a quintet, and Kit even more desperately wants to finally meet her future husband, Paul McCartney (who, sadly, is unaware of her existence). Along the way, the boys and girls pair off after much flirtation and hesitation, as every effervescent musical should probably include.
The uniformly young cast happily plunge head-first into the goofiness. Their energetic commitment not only makes the juvenile humor enjoyably silly (instead of silly-to-a-fault), but also captures the unique frenzy of Beatlemania. Director Chantel Pascente, not letting 59E59's small Theater C space get the best of her, keeps her large cast bouncing about the stage without it ever feeling cramped. To add to the authenticity, choreographer Sarah Shankman utilizes every imaginable 1960s "the" dance—the Monkey, the Twist, the Pony, and so on. Surprisingly, the actors execute these moves with complete sincerity and with as much precision as one can apply to the Pony. The result is that rather than laughing at it all, you kind of want to do the Pony as well.
Maybe a lot of kids can do the Twist, but not a lot of kids are patent musical theater performers like the cast of Mod. After shuffling and starting awkwardly while talking to his crush, Austin Wages (as Rory) unexpectedly lets loose an unwavering, robust voice. Lucy Braid, as Rory's crush, fulfills the ingénue role with a sweet soprano but without acting too sugary. And in particular, Jasmine Schwab as Kit and Craig Fogel, playing the nerdy boyfriend Kit constantly neglects, together exude a quirky charm and adept comic sensibility. Their duet, in which they butt heads about Paul McCartney, is one of the high points of the show.
Unfortunately, Mod feels a little unfinished in its writing. The musical has some trouble sustaining through its 90-minutes, because George Griggs's score and Paul Andrew Perez's book concentrate on creating the atmosphere of Beatlemania rather than creating complete stories for the characters. There are a handful of songs that are totally irrelevant and not cute enough to provide sheer entertainment. And although Griggs's music is both catchy and appropriately reminiscent of 1960s pop, his lyrics are pretty generic and, in some spots, annoyingly repetitive.
But that's the thing about Mod: you can forgive these faults if only because of the show's sheer enthusiasm. It has heart which, as Ross and Adler told us, you gotta have. And for that, I wish Mod the best of luck in the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.