A childless couple undergoes the adoption process in the new musical “The Kid,” based on the 1999 memoir by Dan Savage. While this plot might seem better suited for a 1990s TV movie, the hero writes a syndicated sex column (or, as he puts it, “a forum on politics and relationships”); his partner is a bookshop barista, a lad who shares an affinity for the work of Gore Vidal; and their relationship is a series of catfights and makeups. All of which serves to spice things up, making “The Kid” a heartfelt and endearingly rude musical comedy, despite its flaws.
The New Group’s new musical — their first was “Avenue Q” — comes from a team making their Off Broadway debut, Andy Monroe (music), Jack Lechner (lyrics) and Michael Zam (book). The trio are not without professional credits; Lechner was one of the producers of the pilot episode of “Mad Men” and exec producer of the 2003 Oscar-winner “The Fogs of War.”
The score is promising, if not always successful. Some of it works perfectly well, but other parts don’t: the songs for the young birth couple are not especially convincing, and the “big” disco number is neither big nor necessary.
Lyrics are frequently bright; theatergoers should gladly salute any lyricist who comes up with the notion of countering “stiff martini” with “Diaper Genie.” Mr. Zam’s libretto is laugh-filled and raucous, a good combination under the circumstances.
Whatever the show’s shortcomings, they’re outweighed by its feel-good attributes. Scott Elliott, the New Group a.d., has ably directed (although he might well have counseled his authors to edit and trim). Choreographer Josh Prince offers little until midway through the second act, with a charming duet and an artful ensemble number back to back. Set designer Derek McLane periodically turns his four upstage windows into video screens, humorously alternating between actors-on-video and animation (by Jeff Scher).
The cast is especially good, capturing the rueful humor of the piece while making the characters sympathetic. Christopher Sieber, whose diminutive Lord Faarqaad was one of the more successful components of last season’s “Shrek,” is all over the stage as sex columnist Savage; despite the character’s flaws and quirks, the ingratiating Sieber has the audience fervently rooting for him. Relative newcomer Lucas Steele is a pleasant surprise as Savage’s considerably younger — in age and outlook — partner, and he and Sieber make a winning couple.
Jill Eikenberry offers strong support in the small role of Dan’s mother, with the authors giving her the best song, “I Knew,” in which she explains how she recognized and ted her ten-year-old son’s sexuality long before he did. Jeannine Frumess makes a sympathetic character out of the homeless mother-to-be, and the hard-working ensemble take on numerous small roles with Susan Blackwell (“[title of show”]) standing out as an adoption facilitator.
Broadway vets will recall an endearing little 1983 musical called “Baby,” which told a similar but very different tale in an equally heartwarming and satisfying manner. “The Kid” is not for children, due to language and adult themes, nor for those who shiver with moral indignation at the phrase “same-sex.” Even so, the musical does center on traditional values — traditional musical comedy values — and has a tender and sweet marshmallow heart at its center.