Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Review: A Musical Journey Through Journals

Sending a message through art is almost every artist’s goal. To touch at least one person through it makes the journey with taking. In One Day, teenage journals inspire a pop rock score that touches upon a series of themes and issues that face teenagers today.
Written by Michael Sottile, One Day is a conversation starter on some of the toughest topics today. The way the piece is billed is as “the electrifying journey of eight teenagers.” The piece opens with the conceit of a writer’s club where teens can speak openly and freely. Marketing and calling One Day a book musical, makes it a failure that needs much work. Calling it a song cycle, it's a triumph. One Day is not a typical musical. There are no character arcs. There’s no beginning, middle, or end. It is a series of vignettes with a common theme. The opening conceit of a writer's club is quickly abandoned and randomly appears again in Act II. By eliminating it entirely and allowing the journals to speak for themselves allows for a nice flow and through line. Deciding what exactly this piece is will aid in its success. The production reads as a concert with the fantastic production value but it covers up the flaws. The journals are the theatrical glue of the piece and allowing it be a song cycle lets the themes land successfully. Abandoning the “scenes” and a reason for these people to be in the same room will strongly help this show. Concept aside, the score Sottile has written is absolutely beautiful. Though there may be a few numbers too many, each song is catchy and hits hard. He allows for the music and lyrics to speak for the topic and resonate with the audience. The post curtain call song “Everything That You Are” is a true anthem. It’s the “Seasons of Love” of One Day, hopeful and optimistic. Overall Sottile walks the fine job of treading the line of informing and glorifying. The most glaring one that may fall into the latter is “Tips & Tricks On How to Puke Your Guts Out”, or the bulimia song. The number is brilliant, well written, and a show-stopper. Though there is tiny line that questions the singer’s motive after the song is finished, it’s still a bit blurry.
The ensemble is comprised of "unknown" but they won't be unknown for long. The ensemble is filled with sensational voices. Some of the strongest voices and performances in the show come from Chase O’Donnell, Marco Ramos, Aaron Scheff, and Charlotte Mary Wen. O’Donnell’s vibrant personality shined throughout. Portraying the bullied gay teen, Ramos brought passion, heart, and perhaps the most transcendent performance to the audience. Scheff had an incredibly strong presence, both vocally and dramatically. His anger was genuine, yet you sympathized. Wen and her beautiful smile found humor in the darkness in her moments with fellow “weirdo”, Ben Shuman. Nyseli Vega portrayed the “DJ”. The hip mix master acted as the thread that wove the acts together. Despite being thrust behind a dj table throughout, she was an essential voice and personality to the ensemble.
The stage at 3 Legged Dog was the perfect venue for this piece. The blank space set by Ellen Rousseau allowed for a color spectacular that lighting designer Jason Lyons and video and projections designer Daniel Brodie crafted to be a genuine star. Using the Rousseau’s school inspired set to its max allowed for each moment to have its own unique impression. The one downfall in the design was the costume design by Shane Ballard. If this piece represents all teens, then high school today looks like an angsty Bohemia. Sadly, they felt like costumes as some of the actors seemed uncomfortable in their outfit. The choreography by Ray Leeper was fresh and organic. He put a style in each number and gave them life. He knew when to make it a production number and when to keep it simple. Leeper and Sottile shared the director credit but they could benefit from a new eye to remove the kinks. One being the 90s toned “afterschool special” transition music that felt out of place.
One Day is a musical that needs to be shared. There is an audience out there that it needs to reach. Once One Day knows what it is, it will be something special.