BJ: A Musical Romp
nytheatre.com review by Melanie N. Lee
June 15, 2010
When I chose to review BJ: A Musical Romp, I hadn't taken the title's double entendre seriously enough. Indeed, this musical farce about a home-schooled young man's first day in college, with all the sudden freedom that entails, abounds in puns about all kinds of sexual breakthroughs, most significantly the...well... Let's say this risque show is not for everyone, but it's clever and hilarious, often handling an R-rated subject with G-rated hope and sweetness.
Benyamin Jeremiah (Andrew Redlawsk)—BJ for short—is driven to his dormitory by his doting Mother (Susan McBrien), who's worried about all the predators ready to pounce upon and deflower her baby. Within his first hour in his dorm room, he's accosted by Destiny (Tro Shaw), an aggressive sexpot, Gabriel (Kate Bodenheimer), a female mathlete and "nice girl," and Mullins (Tramaine Montell Ford), the very flamboyant and very gay R.A. BJ also meets Jack (William Goulet Kean), who's on the prowl for beer and broads. All these sex-obsessed characters would seem cliche if not for the superb script, sharp songs, and excellent performances.
My brother, who attended the show with me, said the songwriter had to be very smart considering the language used and the knowledge of math. Book writer/lyricist Peter Dagger, along with composer Eric Jarboe, gives us tunes like "I Love Math," in which Gabriel compares herself and BJ to a trigonometry graph—"I'm the X, he's the Y"—and other lyrics displaying an amusing interplay of math and mating. Earlier, Gabriel and BJ, on their first meeting, had intersected their bodies to form "vertical parabolas."
In another song, Jack advises BJ that "Nice Girls won't let you finish last." Later, the characters, on the brink of sexual adventurism, sing, "I could go down...a different road / I could get off...the beaten path." And if you're confused by the ultra-hip terminology, Jack, fortunately, has a sex thesaurus—"Sex thesaurus!" sings the cast—which defines such terms as "sexile," "awxy," and "blue balls," which doesn't mean what I thought. And why is the mathlete named Gabriel instead of Gabrielle? Let's say that "Blow, Gabriel, Blow" makes a better-pointed pun.
Credit goes to director Matt Britten for evoking such spirited, comic performances from the cast, to choreographer Kim Hale for the oft-hilarious dancing (Ford is especially agile), to musical director Jonathan Breit for arranging beautiful harmonies, and to Megan Moriarty for the costumes, which range from a cutoff tank top with the initials BJ plastered on it, to a tux and evening gown. Some costume choices hint at character and conflict: BJ and his Mother both wear khaki pants with green striped shirts—or are BJ's stripes blue?
One complaint: sometimes the actors sing too softly, obscuring the lyrics.
Aside from the sometimes subtle, sometimes frank sexual talk, there's no nudity or rough cursing. Often this R-rated material is infused with G-rated sunniness, romance, and semi-elegance. If you don't mind the subject matter, BJ: A Musical Romp has a wacky and sharp script, clever songs, and great performances to entertain you, and more than enough sexual teasing to titillate the arrested adolescent in you.