nytheatre.com review by Amy E. Witting
July 13, 2010
With Glee, book, music, and lyrics by John Gregor, is a new musical from the Prospect Theater Company that follows five wayward 13-year-olds on their journey through their freshman year of boarding school in Westbrook, Maine. Playing at the Kirk Theatre at Theatre Row, With Glee is fun and charming with strong potential, but the weakened plot line left me wanting more.
The multi-purpose set, designed by Jen Price Fick, provides a dynamite backdrop for the show, although on the rare occasions when all seven actors are on stage they seemed restricted in their movements. It's clear that this cast can dance, and I would love to have seen them in a larger space where they could really move. I commend them for making the most out of the small Kirk Theatre. Fick's attention to detail such as the chalkboards hanging from the ceiling, and well-orchestrated scene changes, make the show flow and move forward in a very seamless fashion.
The opening number, "Bad Kid School," gives the audience an insight to each character's personal struggle, but fails to fully develop individual story lines until much later in the show.
Nathaniel has recently set off explosives at his public school, forcing his parents to send him away. He desires to find true friends, and is disappointed when his new roommate Clay would rather spend time with his model boat, Mortimer, than talk to him.
The token poor boy, Sam, is paired up with Scott Vanderberg, who hails from the most prestigious New York City family. One of the more memorable moments of the piece is the number "If You Want to Be a Vanderberg"; although awkwardly out of place, it allows the ensemble to show off their outstanding comedic timing, and the song is one you would want to reenact in your own living room.
Kip rounds out the group of five, and is struggling with his sexuality, or rather his father is, and proudly decorates his room with posters from his favorite Broadway musicals. "My dad was afraid I was becoming gay, so he sent me to an all boys school." This is just an example of the quick wit that shines through Gregor's writing. Kip, played by the multi-talented Jason Edward Cook, stays in the background until the superb "Tomas, A One Act Musical" number. Cook is a wonderful character actor who can sing as well as make those high kicks look effortless. I hope to see more of him in the future.
For the hour-and-a-half journey we follow each student as he struggles with his own insecurities, and the idea of being accepted. I lost track of the fact they were only a mere 13 years of age, since the actors are much older. With Glee deals with the common theme of normality, and one's search to fit in. This is relevant at any age, and I was able to relate to their feelings of being misfits, and discovering how to create a bond between fellow misfits. It's endearing how they come together to support one of their own, and in turn are able to let go their feelings of insecurities. Each actor does a tremendous job of creating likable characters; I only wish we could have dived deeper into their lives.
The five boys really come together during the extremely well choreographed "We're Going to Worcester." This is a moment where I was able to get a glimpse into the camaraderie these boys discover throughout the play. We see the conflict and struggle, but I wish we had seen this earlier in the play to carry us through their journey.
The real standout of the musical is Greg Horton, who plays multiple roles throughout the entire show ranging from Mr. Vanderberg to the Headmaster. He has impeccable comedic timing, and is a welcome addition to the ensemble of troubled teenagers. Horton is a very versatile actor with an ability to switch into different characters in a moment's notice. He is a joy to watch.
With Glee will make you remember the days when you were trying to figure out your own identity, and have you laughing and reminiscing about your own school days. Rounded out by a very talented band led by Daniel Feyer, this show is one that deserves a larger house, and an extended run. I hope Gregor continues to explore these characters because there is some much potential for With Glee to blossom.