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Local critics give Hornsby musical a thumbs-up

Tuner has Broadway in its sights

The Verdict looks at critical reaction to key productions opening Off Broadway, regionally and abroad that appear likely candidates for further life on Broadway or elsewhere.

Norfolk, Va., isn’t exactly on the list of usual spots for a Broadway tryout, but new tuner “SCKBSTD” is giving it a go there nonetheless — thanks to the hometown connection of Bruce Hornsby, the show’s composer.

There are no set plans yet for the musical’s future, but the Main Stem pedigree of the show’s creatives, including cast members Robert Cuccioli, Jill Paice and Kevin Mambo, make producers’ ambitions clear.

Tuner, produced by Virginia Stage Company by special arrangement with Michael Rafael and David Riemer of Spiral Staircase, chronicles small-town life on the day a creepy stranger comes to town.

Hornsby and lyricist Chip deMatteo penned the 19 new songs, while Clay McLeod Chapman wrote the book from Hornsby’s original idea. John Rando (“Urinetown”) helms.

Local reviews were upbeat. And while positive response in area press might not turn legiters’ heads the same way a rave in the Washington Post or L.A. Times would, reception still seems encouraging.

n Mal Vincent in the Virginian-Pilot wasn’t a huge fan of the book: “The premise is shaky,” he wrote. But he gave the lyrics a thumbs-up and opined that “Hornsby’s tunes effectively move from rock to New Orleans boogie woogie, from gospel hints to jazz motifs and even polka.” Several members of the cast also were singled out for praise. Show, he wrote, is the “kind of credit that puts Virginia Stage Company on the map. While a more absurdist, surreal touch would alleviate any pesky questions about logic, we’re justifiably proud that ‘SCKBSTD’ originated here.”

n In one of the gushier reviews, David Nicholson at the Daily Press found plenty to like in both the musical and the production. A couple of the songs don’t quite work, he wrote — including a number about Donald Trump that more than one reviewer wasn’t keen on — but nonetheless, “Hornsby and his producers deserve credit for fashioning a meaty musical with an at-times riveting storyline.”

n Rusty Carter in the Virginia Gazette seemed to have the most fun picking out clues that suggest the tuner takes place in Williamsburg, where Hornsby lives. The musical and the production both worked for him. “For those familiar with Hornsby’s music, ‘SCKBSTD’ offers his recognizable style sung by voices that bring the tale to life,” he wrote.

“SCKBSTD” is playing at the Virginia Stage Company’s Wells Theater, Norfolk, Va.

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