×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Weird Romance

Musical numbers: "Weird Romance,""Stop and See Me,""That's Where We Come In, ""Feeling No Pain,""Pop! Flash!,""Amazing Penetration,"'Eyes That Never Lie, ""Worth It,""Eyes That Never Lie" (reprise), "Finale,""My Orderly World,""Need to Know,""You Remember,""Another Woman,""Pressing Onward,""I Can Show You a Thing or Two,""A Man,""Pressing Onward" (reprise), "Someone Else Is Waiting."

With:
Cast: Danny Burstein, Ellen Greene, Jonathan Hadary, Marguerite MacIntyre, Jessica Molaskey, Valerie Pettiford, Eric Riley, Sal Viviano, William Youmans.

Musical numbers: “Weird Romance,””Stop and See Me,””That’s Where We Come In, “”Feeling No Pain,””Pop! Flash!,””Amazing Penetration,”‘Eyes That Never Lie, “”Worth It,””Eyes That Never Lie” (reprise), “Finale,””My Orderly World,””Need to Know,””You Remember,””Another Woman,””Pressing Onward,””I Can Show You a Thing or Two,””A Man,””Pressing Onward” (reprise), “Someone Else Is Waiting.”

NEW YORK–The two musicals that constitute “Weird Romance” make for one of the more schizophrenic evenings available this summer and, their considerable flaws notwithstanding, one with many rewards. The shows will surely have an afterlife, on stages, one hopes, where they will be treated more artfully than they have been in this premiere outing at the WPA.

The production marks the return to the stage of composer Alan Menken, who departed several years ago for the wonderful world of Disney with his partner, the writer and director Howard Ashman, with whom he’d written “Little Shop of Horrors.””Weird Romance” finds Menken teamed with lyricist David Spencer and librettist Alan Brennert on a pair of works based on science fiction stories that couldn’t be more stylistically or emotionally disparate.

“The Girl Who Was Plugged In,” based on the story by James Tiptree Jr., is set in a future where advertising has been banned and products can be hawked only as they’re used by actors on-screen.

For reasons too convoluted to explain, P. Burke, a homeless woman (the brittle Ellen Greene), agrees to have her personality– actually, her lack of personality–transferred to Delphi, a beautiful actress (Marguerite MacIntyre, who is indeed that), for the purpose of unfettered product placement. The studio-cum-laboratory where all this takes place is run by the diabolical Isham (Jonathan Hadary, looking a lot like Jonathan Pryce as the Engineer) and his suspiciously humanistic amanuensis, Joe (William Youmans).

When Isham’s son (Sal Viviano) falls for Delphi, he’s derided by his father: “You were the perfect consumer, Paul–you fell for the package.”

P. Burke is a patented Ellen Green role; when Isham promises her a house, she wonders, “Would it have a door?” She’s a cross between Carol Burnett and Amanda Plummer; bark, you think, and she’d splinter into a million shards. Nevertheless , “Girl” is a nasty bit of business, a hard-edged (if not totally convincing or even original) vision of a commercial environment that’s even uglier than the one we’ve already got. Ice flows through its veins.

You know that “Her Pilgrim Soul,” on the other hand, is a warm sentimental wash even before the main characters start quoting Yeats. Based on the story by Brennert, it finds Hadary as a different kind of scientist, this time in the present, where his Kevin presides obsessively over a holography studio, as his frustrated wife, Carol (Jessica Molaskey), patiently waits for him to come around.

A fetus appears in the studio, and it quickly transforms into Ellen Greene, looking this time like a Gibson Girl. Over a few days, she grows into womanhood before Kevin’s eyes, as he and his charming and suspiciously humanistic assistant (Daniel Burstein) set about unraveling her mystery. For all the holographic mumbo jumbo, “Pilgrim” is a conventional tale of a man who learns about love from the right woman and can finally get on with his life.

Well, it’s a nice conventional tale, and it works beautifully because a moving story unfolds and all of the people in it are likable.

But in addition to quoting Yeats, “Pilgrim” rather shamelessly quotes Stephen Sondheim, particularly “Sunday in the Park With George.” Not only are there an almost unseemly number of musical echoes, but the show’s big number, “Pressing Onward,” is a ringer for “Sunday’s” anthem, “Move On.” Too close for comfort.

“Weird Romance” has been exceptionally well orchestrated by Douglas Besterman , for a small band led by Kathy Sommer. The casting is also appealing, with Viviano nearly stealing theshow in “Pilgrim” as a romantic pop singer.

But Edward T. Gianfranceso’s physical production is uncharacteristically pedestrian, and Michael Krass has outfitted the company in some of the ugliest and most unflattering costumes imaginable. Worse, Barry Harman’s staging lacks energy, imagination, even a rudimentary sense of blocking.

“Weird Romance” deserves a second look from a fresher team.

Weird Romance

(WPA Theater; 122 seats; $ 30 top)

Production: A WPA Theater presentation of two one-act musicals: "The Girl Who Was Plugged In," based on the story by James Tiptree Jr., and "Her Pilgrim Soul," based on the story by Alan Brennert. Music by Alan Menken; book by Alan Brennert; lyrics by David Spencer. Directed by Barry Harman,

Creative: Choreographed by John Carrafa, musical direction, vocal arrangements, conducted by Kathy Sommer. Set, Edward T. Gianfrancesco; lighting, Craig Evans; costumes, Michael Krass; sound, Aural Fixation; orchestrations, dance arrangements, Douglas Besterman; casting, Stephanie Klapper; production stage manager, Joseph A. Onorato. Artistic director, Kyle Renick; managing director, Donna Lieberman. Opened June 21, 1992; reviewed June 24.

Cast: Cast: Danny Burstein, Ellen Greene, Jonathan Hadary, Marguerite MacIntyre, Jessica Molaskey, Valerie Pettiford, Eric Riley, Sal Viviano, William Youmans.

More Legit

  • Audra McDonald Frankie and Johnny

    Listen: How Audra McDonald Faced Her Fear in 'Frankie and Johnny'

    When producers offered Audra McDonald a role in “Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune” opposite Michael Shannon, she immediately said yes. Then she remembered the nude scene. Listen to this week’s podcast below: “Hell, yes, there was trepidation,” the Tony-winning actress said on the new episode of Stagecraft, Variety’s theater podcast. “I was [...]

  • A Strange Loop review

    Off Broadway Review: 'A Strange Loop'

    “No one cares about a writer who is struggling to write,” sings the anxiety-ridden lead character in Michael R. Jackson’s sometimes exhilarating, sometimes exasperating new musical, “A Strange Loop,” at Playwrights Horizons. The abundantly talented Jackson takes the otherwise tired trope of the young, poor and sensitive artist trying to discover his true self and [...]

  • Richard E Grant Everybody's Talking About

    Richard E. Grant to Play Former Drag Queen in 'Everybody's Talking About Jamie'

    Oscar-nominated actor Richard E. Grant will portray a former drag queen and mentor in “Everybody’s Talking About Jamie,” the movie adaptation of the British stage musical. “Catastrophe” co-creator and star Sharon Horgan and “Happy Valley” star Sarah Lancashire have also joined the film. Max Harwood will play the titular role of Jamie, a role inspired [...]

  • The Secret Life of Bees review

    Off Broadway Review: 'The Secret Life of Bees'

    There’s a sweet sense of sisterhood that’s simply divine in “The Secret Life of Bees,” the heartwarming new musical at the Atlantic Theater Company based on Sue Monk Kidd’s bestselling 2002 coming-of-age novel, set in South Carolina in 1964 amid Civil Rights struggles. (A 2008 film adaptation starred Dakota Fanning and Queen Latifah.) The feeling [...]

  • 10 Comics to Watch

    Variety Announces 10 Comics to Watch for 2019

    Variety has chosen its 10 Comics to Watch for 2019. The honorees will be profiled in the July 18 issue of Variety and at the Just for Laughs Comedy Festival in Montreal at a cocktail party on Thursday, July 25, followed by a panel and showcase on Friday, July 26. The events are sponsored by Cohen & Gardner LLP. The [...]

  • Vanessa Hudgens So You Think You

    Vanessa Hudgens, Hailey Kilgore to Star in Reading of 'The Notebook' Musical

    Vanessa Hudgens and Tony-nominee Hailey Kilgore are joining an upcoming reading of Ingrid Michaelson’s stage adaptation of “The Notebook” by Nicholas Sparks. Tony nominee Michael Greif is set to direct the reading, which will open June 23 at Vassar College’s Martel Theater as part of their Powerhouse Theater season. Kilgore will star as the younger [...]

  • Moulin Rouge director Alex Timbers

    'Beetlejuice,' 'Moulin Rouge!' Director Alex Timbers on Creating Worlds on Broadway

    In the past year, Alex Timbers has directed the Tony-nominated “Beetlejuice” and the stage adaptation of “Moulin Rouge!” (which begins previews June 28 at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre). Here, he reflects on his most recent projects and the challenges of bringing two iconic movie musicals to Broadway within a year.  Both your musicals live in [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content