THE TRAPPED FAMILY SINGERS
nytheatre.com review by Gyda Arber
It was the strippers in Gypsy who first proclaimed, "You Gotta Get a
Gimmick." But while gimmicks may work for strippers, it is the rare show
that can take a gimmick and successfully sustain it for more than a few
minutes. The Trapped Family Singers is a series of musical sketches in
which the gimmick involves people who are forced to sing; however,
despite the best efforts of the talented cast, director, lyricist, and
composer, this show never gets much past its premise.
August 15, 2003
The show begins with a stage manager (Alexander Gemignani) making the usual pre-show announcements, with the addition that a musicians’ strike may occur at any moment and that the show is on hold. Suddenly an irate audience member (Nick Wyman) demands that he be entertained immediately, coercing the stage manager into singing his pre-show announcements in a funny and entertaining opening number. After this scene, we are told that the strike has been postponed and the show can begin; five sketches involving families and different forced singing scenarios follow.
The company is wonderful; kudos to director John Driver for casting such a talented and fun group of actors. The real standout is Gemignani, who succeeds in each of his roles and, thankfully, is given plenty of stage time to display his considerable skill. Amy Downing provides the most touching moment in the show with the beautiful "Come to Me," a lyrical number that showcases composer David Strickland’s talents. The score is primarily composed of pastiche numbers, so this is the only piece that allows Strickland’s sound to come through. Ellen Schwartz’s lyrics are filled with clever and unexpected rhymes (down on me/ SUV, edification/vacation) that reminded me of a modern Cole Porter. The book by Driver, Schwartz, and Strickland has some very funny dialogue, especially in the "Selassie, Come Home" sketch, but the forced singing gimmick gets in the way of the real storytelling these three are capable of, most noticeably in the nursery scene.
The Trapped Family Singers is a light, diverting musical that has some very funny moments; unfortunately those moments aren’t quite enough to carry it. The talent involved in this show is clearly evident, however, so expect to be hearing these names again in the future.