Show Choir!--The Musical
nytheatre.com review by Case Aiken
October 3, 2010
The first thing I have to say when explaining Show Choir!--the Musical, part of this year's NYMF Festival, is that it is really nothing like Glee. Rather than exploring the internal drama of a high school choir it instead is set up like an "E True Hollywood Story"-type faux documentary about the miraculous rise of a show choir, as led by their director, Jake Jonathan (Mick Bonde). So it is different...for better or worse. Show Choir!--the Musical has some pretty catchy music and excellent singers, but I was left with a decidedly ambivalent feeling when all was said and done.
Jake Jonathan becomes inspired to form a choir at his high school after experiencing a dream of them performing. He shares this with the school's Home Economics teacher, Monica Susans (Leigh Ellen Caudill), who comes on board as assistant director and composer, and they set about forming a show choir made up of their students. As the story goes, told from a vantage point years later, Monica's compositions combined with the choir's talent take them to celebrity status, winning various contests and eventually performing at the Macy's Day Parade and the Super Bowl. But as with any story of success, personalities begin to clash and eventually the group splits up and they all spiral down from the legacy of their stardom, before they inevitably see the error of their ways and reunite.
There's a lot to like about the show, but there are plenty of problems, too. Some of the issues I have with the piece may stem from the characters. Jake Jonathan is especially annoying and near as I can tell brings nothing to the group from the get go. When he becomes consumed by fame, it's neither a surprise nor a change of a character. The rest fall along standard archetypes from rock and roll collapse stories, made creepier by them being all 17-year-old kids. Every issue, however, is evenly counterbalanced by the strengths of the show, such as the great character performances of Neal Mayer and Jeanne Tinker, who take most of the peripheral parts. Costumes are completely tacky, but realistic. They utilize a projector for a set, to both good and ill effect. Good music, but nothing really a showstopper (which is weird since in the story it is the music that is supposed to be propelling the group into fame). Again, I didn't dislike the show, it just was very neutral to me. It may be predictable and cliched, but Show Choir!--the Musical isn't a bad representation of that type.