A semi-autobiographical piece, HeadVoice follows a youngster writing a musical to escape reality. But his process is assisted by the voices in his head. The concept Andersen prescribes is clever but gets stuck in the mud of multiple ideas. The rules of HeadVoice are a bit unclear, inconsistent, and congested. Eric, the name of Ethan's stage persona, claims he is in control of his thoughts yet his thoughts go rogue multiple times. The trio of thoughts are supposed to represent Id, Ego, and Super Ego but you'd only know that if you read the promotional material. They are forced to play characters of Eric's musical and flip flop their knowledge of the true events to come. Even without this knowledge, it really doesn’t have much a baring on the characters. The book is in need of incredible cleaning up. What HeadVoice does do is showcase Andersen's flourishing musical talent. The score Andersen has scribed is beautiful. He gives loving nods to many musical theater staples within his original material. Andersen is a smart writer. He knows how to write an incredible song. He taps into the "write what you know" mold well. Some of his songs can stand alone outside of the context of HeadVoice, which is an indication of strong writing. Following in the footsteps of the autobiographical musical mold of Lin-Manuel Miranda and the NYMF darling [title of show], Ethan Andersen takes his life, throws it on stage and puts himself in it. Andersen is at least self aware at the potential of being tacky. Knowing yourself is certainly a way to enforce a well-rounded character but the trick is if HeadVoice can exist sans Andersen. Sadly, it may not be able to stand alone.
|Photo by Morgan Mayer|
Simplicity was the key to HeadVoice. Director and choreographer Charlie Johnson knew just exactly how to tell this story. With a piano, three chairs, and a door to work with, Johnson varied his staging and generated some stunning stage pictures. Johnson honored the theatricality of the musical, contributing some snazzy moves on stage. Aiding in the beauty of the show was lighting designer Alicia Varcoe. Her diverse range of color set the mood of emotion throughout. The only design faux pas was the door. The color scheme Johnson used was blue, black, and gray. And for the most part the color language remained consistent except the tan of the door. Being the only aspect that was different, it stood out.
Ethan Andersen has some wonderful potential going for him. HeadVoice is a wonderful showcase of his musical talents. But with the book needing much repair, the best option may be to hook up with a book writer to create a brand new original musical. Something less personal.