Backstage.com article about With Glee
October 03, 2007
By Nancy Ellen Shore
John Gregor's winsome musical With Glee, about five highly likable 13-year-old "problem" boys, mostly from wealthy families, who are struggling to fit in at a Maine boarding school, is a charmer from start to finish. Developed at NYU's Tisch School of the Arts, where all five young actors are either currently matriculating or recently graduated from, its current incarnation is a highly polished effort with never-a-dull-moment direction from Ryan Mekenian and spiffy, tongue-in-cheek choreography from Billy Griffin.
The quintet of misfits includes Nathaniel (Greg Kenna), a sweet, attention-deprived kid who set off fireworks in his school in a misguided bid for popularity; financial-aid-dependent Sam (Ryan Speakman), an incorrigible car thief; and suffocatingly formal Scott (Justin Bellero), the pampered son of an old-money New York family. Rounding out the group are Clay (Dan Lawler), who escapes from his perennially arguing parents into obsessive model-boat building, and theatre-loving Kip (Kevin Michael Murphy), whose effeminate tendencies have his high-powered-executive father worried.
Despite some problems projecting over the piano-percussion accompaniment, the five actors prove to be highly accomplished singers who handle the book's serious and comic elements with the ease of seasoned performers. And Michael J. Miller showcases high-energy comic versatility as the fathers and male teachers — his geriatric geography prof is a hoot — though Elizabeth Kerins is less nuanced as the mothers and female authority figures.
Eschewing the current rock-influenced teen-angst trend, Gregor relies on a tried-and-true musical-theatre model, mixing ballads with lively up-tempo numbers. Highlights include "Gaul Was Divided Into Three Parts," in which the boys struggle through their first day of classes and which is reminiscent of The Music Man's opening number; the hilarious Gilbert and Sullivan echo "If You Want to Be a Vanderberg" and the tender ballad "Clay's Song." There is beautiful harmonizing on the group-therapy wail "Normal" and the yearning, perfect-girlfriend vision "Amanda." And Kip's sophomoric "Tomas: A One-Act Musical," about a German soldier on English territory, is a comic showstopper.
Presented by Wiley Hausam as part of the New York Musical Theatre Festival
at the 45 Street Theatre, 354 W. 45th St., NYC.
Sept. 27-Oct. 7. Remaining performances: Wed., Oct. 3, 8 p.m.; Fri., Oct. 5, 4:30 p.m., Sat., Oct. 6, 1 p.m., Sun., Oct. 7, 4:30 p.m.
(212) 352-3101 or (866) 811-4111 or www.theatermania.com or www.nymf.org.