Musical numbers: “Snapshots,” “New Kid in the Neighborhood,” “Neat to Be a Newsboy,” “Lion Tamer,” “Extraordinary”/”Corner of the Sky,” “With You,” “Proud Lady,” “Cold Enough to Snow”/”Where Did the Magic Go?,” “Morning Glow,” “If We Never Meet Again”/”Nothing to Do With Love,” “Endless Delights,” “Meadowlark,” “Moving in With Susan,” “Chanson,” “A World Without You/With You,” “Beside You,” “Spark of Creation,” “All Good Gifts,” “Parents’ Day”/”I Remember,” “The Hardest Part of Love”/”Father and Sons,” “Code of Silence.”
Even a tin ear could tell that musical director Andrew Lippa at the offstage piano is one of the very few pleasurable elements of “Snapshots,” an otherwise dreary rehash of Stephen Schwartz songs from such previous musicals as “Children of Eden,” “Godspell,” “Life With Mikey,” “Personals,” “Pippin,” “Rags,” “The Baker’s Wife,” “The Magic Show,” “The Trip” and “Working.” Lippa’s technical expertise at the keyboard is so superior to almost everything else about “Snapshots” that he sometimes seems to be on another theatrical planet.
With some revised lyrics and a smattering of dialogue, the Schwartz songs have been pasted onto a sentimental storyline about a generic middle-aged married couple (Cass Morgan and William Parry) going through a generic midlife crisis. Leafing through old snapshots up in their suburban attic, their former selves materialize in the form of four younger actors (Erin Leigh Peck, Ric Ryder, Julia K. Murney and Dan Goodspeed, all playing a variety of peripheral characters). The former selves act out the past from childhood on, during which the couple rediscovers mutual love.
This simple plot is none too clearly projected, particularly at the end, when the wife changes her mind about leaving the marriage without any strong reason for doing so: As played (and sung flatly) by Parry, the husband seems as drab as ever at show’s end.
Schwartz’s music, along with that of the other contributors, comes across as relentlessly busy, just as the lyrics are wincingly reliant on passe pop psychology. And the book by Michael Scheman and David Stern is as uninspired and dated as Scheman’s direction. Let’s not even consider the uncredited choreography. In a program note, Scheman says that he and Stern wanted Schwartz’s songs to be sung “by characters the audience could really care about, ” which is precisely what “Snapshots” fails to deliver.
The cast members have all been seen to better effect elsewhere. Here they don’t get beyond the generic, and their singing tends toward yowling. The younger members have some singularly embarrassing moments playing children, with Ryder doing a number in drag for no good reason.
When all is sung and done, it’s Schwartz’s songs that are the reason behind “Snapshots,” and they just aren’t strong enough to keep nearly two hours afloat. Coming so soon after “Dreamland,” the new Harold Arlen mini-musical at Sharon Stage, their lack of lasting quality is even more apparent.