NEW YORK–What little imagination there is in “Balancing Act,” Dan Goggin’s new musical comedy, can be found in the program’s list of characters. The gimmick–five actors play different aspects of a single character, while one actor plays everybody else in his life–is a cute one, sometimes even a clever one. But beyond the gimmick there’s nothing but a stockpile of showbiz cliches. Goggin, whose “Nunsense” has been running for seven years Off-Broadway, won’t have the same success here.
“Act” sketches the story of Chris Finn, a Broadway wannabe who leaves Hometown, USA, for the bright lights of Gotham. The five actors playing Finn travel the stage in a pack, each mouthing the lines appropriate to their portion of Finn’s personality: The Ambitious Side (Craig Wells), The Sensitive Side (Diane Fratantoni), The Optimistic Side (Christine Toy), The Skeptical Side (J.B. Adams) and The Humorous Side (Suzanne Hevner). A sixth actor (Nancy E. Carroll) plays various other characters encountered by Finn.
Were it not so awfully earnest, “Act” could be mistaken for a parody of countless showbiz melodramas: Would-be star leaves hometown (and hometown love interest) for New York, struggles, triumphs, loses, bounces back.
All the elements are here: the dehumanizing cattle calls, the bit parts, the eccentric New York characters, the disappointments and successes, and the ultimate question of whether to go home or continue a life in the theater.
Goggin doesn’t give his routine storyline a single new twist and even the lyrics to his songs (most of “Act” is sung through) are extremely trite.
In “Next Stop: New York City,” the main character sings “I’ve come this far, it won’t be long till I’m a star.” Once the stock setbacks have occurred, The Ambitious Side gets stuck with “Where is the rainbow that everybody promised me?/When will the sun begin to shine?”
The sketches/songs are performed on a mirrored platform steps, giving the production a revue-style feel. Most of the songs are standard-issue upbeat piano bar tunes, but each “side” is given a solo shot at an overwrought ballad.
Given the material, the cast is surprisingly likable. None of the six performers completely escapes the hokum, but high spirits count for something. Carroll, playing the various characters encountered by the would-be star, is, naturally, afforded more range and takes suitable advantage.
Tech credits are slick, costumes colorful and set attractive, but Goggin co-directed “Act” with Tony Parise and neither could come up with blocking more interesting than face-front, edge-of-the-stage belting.
The ensemble occasionally mimes certain simple tasks in unison–phone dialing , drinking a beer, etc.–but the trick, like the production itself, can best be described as thin.