Does “Transparent” have the makings of a musical? That was the question — literally — at “Faith Soloway & Friends: Should ‘Transparent’ Become a Musical?,” the one-night-only cabaret created and co-emceed by Faith Soloway, a writer-producer on the Amazon series and the sister of the show’s creator Jill Soloway.
“Amazon” star Judith Light and “Hamilton” producer Jeffrey Seller were among the audience that turned out June 19 to learn the answer — which was a solid “maybe,” half in jest and half serious. As a musician, Faith Soloway has written tunes for a series of rock operas, and she’s said in interviews that when she and Jill first discussed the idea of writing about their family’s story, they imagined a musical documentary.
The show, at the Public Theater’s cabaret venue Joe’s Pub, corralled a handful of performers — including co-host Alexandra Billings, who plays Maura’s friends Davina on the series — to showcase about 10 songs that may or may not become part of a “Transparent” musical, should one ever become a possibility. Soloway jokingly cast doubt on the whole enterprise with her first song, set to the opening theme of “Transparent.” “The rights are owned by Amazon, which is its own kind of hell,” she cracked.
Regardless of whether “Transparent” should become a musical, the songs presented in the 75-minute performance made it clear that it certainly could — albeit a musical with a broader, more overtly comic mood than the TV show. “Transparent” with jazz hands, say.
One tune, “I Was The Lesbian First,” imagined the character Sarah (played at the concert by Megan Amram) reminding her younger sister, Ali, that she had blazed the woman-seeking-woman trail long before either Ali or their parent Maura did (“I was first; I wore the badge / Now we three are hunting vag”). Another found Maura (Seth Bodie) doing her best Joni Mitchell while she recounted a nightmare to her less-than-interested family (“When Joni Sings”), and one tender, quirky love song — “Crazy People,” sung by Brandon Cordeiro — was inspired by the journals of Soloway’s sibling and could be a good fit for the character Josh, the songwriter said.
The evening’s showstoppers went to Light’s character, Shelly (Amy Graves), whose number with Sarah, “Your Boundary is my Trigger,” playfully tweaked the show’s vocabulary of self-aware self-analysis. “Do Me” was a disco-y riff on the one-women show Shelly performed on a cruise ship in the series’ season 3 finale, this time with Sarah and Josh roped into the act too.
The evening’s emotional climax came with “Your Shoes,” sung by Billings as Maura, explaining to ex-wife Shelly the reason that Maura (then known as Mort) asked her to marry. The finale, “Boundary is the Secret,” also struck a more serious tone, detailing how each character felt about family.
The New York performance was a fundraiser for Americans United, the advocacy group focused on the separation of church and state. Early on in the show, two members of the cast performed “Church and State,” the song that Soloway wrote for AU and was performed in a YouTube video by Jane Lynch and Jordan Peele.