Posts Tagged ‘michael zam’

Performance diary: THE KID

May 8, 2010

May 6 – I’ve been hearing about The Kid, the musical adaptation of Dan Savage’s book about adopting a child with his boyfriend, for several years. A friend of Stephen’s, Michael Zam, wrote the book, and with his partners lyricist Jack Lechner and composer Andy Monroe he has been chasing down producers until Scott Elliott agreed to mount the show at the New Group, directing it himself. And it’s terrific: funny, honest, entertaining, smart, and theatrical, not unlike, say, the musicals of Bill Finn. It tells a real and compelling story with a lot of humor but also a lot of heart, and it’s shockingly free of bogus moments that pander either to the audience or to some tradition of musical theater.

The real Dan Savage is a larger-than-life character already, an incredibly smart, sharp-tongued and potty-mouthed sex columnist and political commentator. I was amazed at how successfully the musical created a stage version of Dan that refers to the real-life guy and yet becomes a separate entity – a tribute to the writing and the directing but mostly to the performance of Christopher Sieber. I’ve never felt one way or another about Sieber, but he really puts out here. It’s a little shocking that he’s chubbed up for the part, which makes him NOT look like Dan Savage, but he stays wonderfully true to the character’s highly neurotic, rage-filled smartass and yet completely inhabits a very intimate vulnerability. Lucas Steele as his boyfriend Terry is fine but somewhat thinly drawn – it’s hard to know what Dan sees in him, other than his being “young and cute” (not my taste, but whatever). But their relationship is sexy and feisty and culturally plugged in (I love the role Bjork plays in their life). And the rest of the cast is absolutely terrific – minor superstars of contemporary New York theater including Ann Harada (Christmas Eve in Avenue Q), Tyler Maynard (Altar Boyz), the spectacularly pale and skinny Brooke Sunny Moriber (The Wild Party, The Dead, Parade), and especially Susan Blackwell (of [title of show] fame), who plays the woman from the adoption agency who serves as liaison to the birth mother whose baby the guys adopt. The story has plenty of potential for both zany comedy and dramatic tension, and the treatment of the birth mother – Melissa, a homeless alcoholic teenager – is handled with extraordinary respect and restraint. She’s very well played by Jeannine Frumess, and everything about her has a different tone than Life At Home with Dan and Terry. The score carefully walks a line between storytelling and show-biz. There’s a modesty about it that I really liked, and there are several moments that are genuinely touching. Melissa’s song, “Sparechangin’,” is a dramatic highpoint that shifts the show to an intriguing deeper layer. Many of the songs are chatty and fun, along the lines of, say, Falsettos or Baby, with the occasional change-of-pace blast (“Seize the Day”). But at key moments things drop into truer and realer in a way that feels really solid (the candidate for instant classic is “I Knew,” a PFLAG anthem if I ever heard one, nicely sung by Jill Eikenberry as Dan’s mother). Bravo to this team for pulling it off. I think The Kid is going to be a hit.

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