nytheatre.com review by David Fuller
August 14, 2011
Destinations, book by Dawn Eaton, music and lyrics by R. S. Rodkin, is a new original rock musical about the fictional band The Destinations, their demise due to the lead singer’s addictions in the '70s and their renaissance in the '80s as an “oldies” band. Its themes revolve around the importance of friendship and loyalty and the dangers of addiction in all forms, whether drugs, alcohol or adulation. None of this is ground-breaking, and some of the storyline verges on the trite, yet there is something very engaging about this production, something that keeps us involved up to the very end. In retrospect, it is a bit of a soap opera; yet such melodramas often hold our interest, so it ought to be no surprise that Destinations keeps us watching, even when we might be able to predict where the story is going.
At opening we see the group in all their 1974 glory, rockin’ it on tour. But the lead male vocal, Chris D’Angelo, played by Steve Monarque, can’t finish the set due to a need for some drugs and he and his wife, Michelle, played by Amy Casey (the band’s other lead vocal and Chris’s enabler) storm off. The tour is cancelled. Next, we jump ahead to the mid '80s. Chris is sober and the band is together once again, about to embark on a reunion tour, minus Michelle, who hadn’t joined Chris in sobriety and who thus was divorced by him. So, the band is auditioning for a new front girl. In comes a vocal knockout and a bit of a looker, Nicole, played by Laura Carbonell, who wins the job but purports propriety—she is engaged to an aspiring attorney and will tolerate no shenanigans by the guys while on tour. Well, despite these platonic aspirations, rock bands are rock bands: Chris and Nicole get together. But Michelle enters the picture, an offer for a new contract from a big producer goes on the table, with some stiff conditions, and much soul searching ensues. The ending may be predictable, but it is happily gratifying. In a way this show is like rock and roll comfort food.
The venue for this production adds nicely to the rock concert vibe—the club Le Poisson Rouge (formerly the Village Gate). Director Gregory Fletcher uses the space well, with the help of lighting designer Joe Saint. Onstage and backstage spaces are delineated clearly through light changes, and other locations such as the band’s van are presented simply but effectively. An Act Two song, “The Price You Sometimes Pay,” is nicely staged in simultaneous locales, one in NYC, one in New Orleans, with just a spot on a piano in the audience and other lights on the stage.
The music by R. S. Rodkin may seem a bit pedestrian, but the ballads and the beat numbers all come out of the story and serve the production. In a way that generic sound is kind of the point: The Destinations are not supposed to be the Rolling Stones. Still, some of the music gets under your skin—I found myself humming the last number, “No Regrets,” long after I’d left Le Poisson Rouge.
The company are well cast and those that play and sing do so in a solidly believable rock and roll style. Monarque, Casey and Carbonell are standouts, and the others—Lee Michael Buckman as the band bass player and conscience Jimmy, Mark J. Becks as the drummer Sammy, and William J. Villa as keyboardist Billy Ray—all acquit themselves well. In the non-singing roles of the band manager Rick and Nicole’s jilted lawyer Gary, Lee Blair and Sam Port, respectively, do fine work.
At the top of the show, the band tries to get things rockin’ with “Tumblin’ Down,” some good old fashioned rock and roll, but when I saw the show the audience just wasn’t into it, being that we were attending a 12:30 afternoon matinee. I will bet, however, that the midnight show coming up will rock the house. Then the venue and the vibe ought to conspire for some good times! Comfort food is good for the soul.