Granola! The Musical
nytheatre.com review by Julie Congress
August 15, 2004
The story of Granola! The Musical centers on Joad, a well-meaning granola farmer, and his ensemble of fellow granola farmers. However, the evil corporation Evilcorp, led by the sadistic Vladimir Vladivostok and his equally wicked subordinate Skip Tumalu, is planning on seizing Joad’s granola farm. But don’t you fear, because Joad’s cause is aided by wise old Granny and the ingratiating 1930’s Southern lawyer Aloysius Finster. Betty and Clive are the self-professed romantic leads of the musical. Theirs is a sad tale: she is a granola farmer; he is an Evilcorp employee. The play is packed with melodrama, gimmicks, and, of course, good-old-fashioned farm dances (as well as one Russian dance by Vladimir, aptly titled “Generic Russian Dance”).
Apple Rug Productions’ Granola! The Musical is seemingly a parody of Oklahoma! and any number of other musicals of that vintage, yet it ends up poking more jabs at itself than anything else. The first number of the second act asks us “What Are You Still Doing Here?” and then proceeds to list in detail all of the show's shortcomings. This self-deprecating attitude is amusing at first, but quickly becomes tedious. Coupled with this is the fact that we are constantly reminded by the actors that this is a show—Betty and Clive sing about their lack of character development; Skip Tumalu notifies Vladimir that it is now time to sing the big Act 1 closing number; and the granola farmers win their case in court because, as the judge announces, the author says they do. While this is an amusing device, its incessant use means that we are never allowed to become involved in the show, and the two hours end up going by rather slowly.
Though Granola! has its flaws, it does show great promise. Eric March, who wrote the book, music, and lyrics and directed the show, is a sophomore at Yale University. Granola! is an impressively ambitious musical for FringeNYC: it has a cast of twenty actors (most of college age), creative scenery (designed by Syracuse University Sophomore Josh Miller), multitudes of colorful costumes (by Skidmore College sophomore Amy Santo), and complex choreography (by recent Marymount Manhattan College graduate Jessica DiMauro). Apple Rug Productions shows great potential and ambition, and for a first attempt, you could do far worse than Granola! The Musical.