×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Once Around the Sun

Phoniness finds its soundtrack in "Once Around the Sun," a laughably shallow new "musical about music" that peddles three-chord cliche as rock 'n' roll drama. As they track a young musician's oh-so-tortured rise to stardom, the writers even have the audacity to liken their milquetoast hero to Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Kurt Cobain.

With:
Kevin - Asa Somers Skye, Fred - Caren Lyn Manuel Ray, Waldo - Kevin Mambo Dave, Guy - Jesse Lenat Richie - Wes Little Lane - John Hickok Nona - Maya Days

Phoniness finds its soundtrack in “Once Around the Sun,” a laughably shallow new “musical about music” that peddles three-chord cliche as rock ‘n’ roll drama. As they track a young musician’s oh-so-tortured rise to stardom, the writers even have the audacity to liken their milquetoast hero to Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Kurt Cobain — proving the folly of braying about vision you don’t actually have.

The great hypocrisy of librettist Kellie Overbey and composer-lyricists Steven Morris, Robert Morris and Joe Shane is their disdain for prefabricated pop. The show tries to prove the integrity of Kevin Stevens, the pretty-boy front man played by Asa Somers, by letting him and his friends make jokes about the “shallow, square and empty” junk on “American Idol.” To contrast with our hero, we meet Waldo (Kevin Mambo), an “Idol” winner whose vapid singles have let him replace Kevin’s band at a nightclub gig.

It’s unclear why a TV superstar would play the same rathole as struggling rockers, but simple-minded melodrama has no room for logic. The important thing is showing us that Kevin, by way of his music, digs deeper than some fizzy TV himbo. Yet here’s a sample lyric from one of his masterpieces: “When I dream of you/Yeah, you’re the only one I see/Looking in those loving eyes/I know that you’re the one for me.”

That’s as profound as it gets, and the music is just as vapid. So much for the tuner’s premise that “meaningful” music will save our hearts from corporate emptiness. The composers can’t even master the top 40’s mindless formula, let alone transcend it.

Overbey’s book proves just as awkward, especially when she attempts high drama. Nadirs get hit with any appearance by Nona Blue (Maya Days), an ex-diva record exec who seduces Kevin with promises of success. The catch, of course, is that she’ll only make him a star if he drops his bandmates, becomes her lover, blah, blah, blah.

Nona’s entire arc — from early temptress to redeemed songbird — is instantly obvious, but the show lights some flares to alert the brain dead. When Nona and Kevin first shake hands, a spotlight surrounds them, and everyone else freezes in place. The devilish diva sings, “Kevin, listen to your heart, you’ve wanted this forever.” Kevin stares over the audience, conflicted. Get it? Amazingly, this high-camp moment is not played for laughs, but auds may chuckle anyway.

As they trudge from one number to the next, the actors apparently are dreaming of better work. They’re all excellent singers, but their line readings are universally wooden and bland.

The perfs are so colorless, in fact, that when Caryn Lyn Manuel appears as a new character in the final scene, it takes ages to realize she’s not playing Kevin’s girlfriend from act one.

Director Jace Alexander only adds to the confusion with clunky scene changes that literally stop the show. Thesps must try to deliver speeches while moving tables or changing clothes. Then, once the scenes begin, Alexander has them mime activities that only need simple props. Maybe if they could really pour their drinks instead of just pretending to, the players wouldn’t seem so burdened by their stage business.

But the pantomimed cocktails do have their purpose. Like a dire warning, they remind us that no amount of posturing can give substance to something that’s fake.

Popular on Variety

Once Around the Sun

Zipper Theater; 199 seats; $60 top

Production: A Sibling Entertainment and URL Prods. presentation, in association with Maffei Prods., of a musical in two acts, with music and lyrics by Robert Morris, Steven Morris and Joe Shane, book by Kellie Overbey. Directed by Jace Alexander. Choreography, Taro Alexander.

Creative: Sets, Beowulf Borit; costumes, Daniel Lawson; lighting, Jason Lyons; sound, T. Richard Fitzgerald, Carl Casella; orchestrations, David Spinozza; musical direction, Henry Aronson; production stage manager, Renee Rimland. Opened Aug. 11, 2005. Reviewed Aug. 8. Running time: 2 HOURS, 20 MIN.

Cast: Kevin - Asa Somers Skye, Fred - Caren Lyn Manuel Ray, Waldo - Kevin Mambo Dave, Guy - Jesse Lenat Richie - Wes Little Lane - John Hickok Nona - Maya Days

More Legit

  • David-Alan-Grier-Blair-Underwood

    David Alan Grier and Blair Underwood to Star in 'A Soldier's Play' on Broadway

    David Alan Grier and Blair Underwood will star in a Broadway production of Pulitzer-Prize winning drama “A Soldier’s Play.” The play, written by Charles Fuller, is set in 1944 and follows a murder mystery centered around the death of black Sergeant Vernon C. Waters (played by Grier) who is found on a Louisiana army base. [...]

  • The Inheritance review

    'The Inheritance' Announces Broadway Cast

    After an Olivier-winning run in London, “The Inheritance” is gearing up for its Broadway debut. The two-part epic has set the cast for its transfer from the West End to the Great White Way. John Benjamin Hickey, Paul Hilton, Samuel H. Levine, Andrew Burnap and Kyle Soller are among the cast members reprising their roles [...]

  • Patrick Page, Amber Grey, Eva Noblezada,

    'Hadestown' Announces 2020 National Tour

    ‘Hadestown’, the eight-time Tony award winning Broadway musical, is set for a national tour in 2020. The show will stop in more than 30 cities including Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, New Orleans, and more. The musical is a stage adaptation of the Greek myths of Orpheus and Eurydice and King Hades and his wife [...]

  • Jake Gyllenhaal

    Listen: Why Jake Gyllenhaal Is His 'Best Self' in the Theater

    Looking for the best possible version of Jake Gyllenhaal? You’ll find it onstage, according to the actor himself. Listen to this week’s podcast below: “I am my best self when I’m working in the theater,” Gyllenhaal said on the latest episode Stagecraft, Variety’s theater podcast, on which he appeared with Carrie Cracknell, the director of [...]

  • Photo: Jeremy Daniel

    'The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical' Gets Broadway Run

    “The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical” is Broadway bound. The musical adaptation of the franchise about a teenager who discovers he’s the son of Poseidon hits the Great White Way on Sept. 20 ahead of an Oct. 16 opening night. It comes on the heels of an extensive, nationwide tour that took the show [...]

  • Tom Sturridge Jake Gyllenhaal

    Jake Gyllenhaal and Tom Sturridge Celebrate 'Sea Wall/A Life' With Star-Studded Opening Night

    A star-studded audience looked on as Jake Gyllenhaal and Tom Sturridge returned to the stage for their double monologue performance in “Sea Wall/A Life.” Theater-goers and celebs including Anne Hathaway, Tom Hiddleston and John Mulaney gathered in Manhattan’s Hudson Theatre for opening night, celebrating a show tackling grief, birth and death through the eyes of [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content