This charming little pop musical about adolescent innocence comes from two experts on the subject — a pair of twentysomethings from the D.C. area in their first theatrical collaboration. Given a strong sendoff by the Signature Theater under a.d. Eric Schaeffer’s direction, “Glory Days” should register with legions of likeminded souls on the threshold of adulthood.
A theatermaker who loves to roll the dice on new works, Schaeffer has made room in a season anchored by Stephen Sondheim and Kander and Ebb for budding writers Nick Blaemire and James Gardiner. Their economy-sized tuner tells of four ex-high school chums who reconnect one year after graduation, only to discover that they’ve already grown apart.
Included are heartfelt melodies packed with earnest lyrics about friendship, ambition, tolerance and mischievous teenage years. The songs typically offer tight harmonies expertly sung by the talented quartet.
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Gardiner’s dialogue is rich with good-natured barbs uttered by the self-described nerds, who have bonded over their collective failure to make the football team. But the carefree atmosphere takes a sobering turn when one of the fellows confesses he’s gay — news greeted with mixed reaction and heavy soul-searching.
Indeed, shades of introspection are the primary focus of song and story as the characters reminisce and contemplate one last prank. This mindset is squarely addressed in a catchy number about self-obsession, “Generation Apathy.”
While the project doesn’t rival the literary or musical heights reached by the Signature season’s more celebrated contributors, its modest goals and endearing touches work nicely. Action takes place on James Kronzer’s empty set of high school bleachers, backed by a wall of stadium lights. The nimble quartet get a workout under Schaeffer’s direction as they scale the seats, occasionally pausing under spotlights for solitary reflection.
Steven Booth nicely anchors the action as the sensitive ringleader and principal voice for Gardiner’s sincere themes. Adam Halpin plays the practical thinker, while Jesse JP Johnson convinces as the play’s most developed character, the gay chum who seeks understanding. Andrew C. Call also offers a strong performance as the cocky and intolerant friend.