Show Choir! - The Musical
nytheatre.com review by Lisa Ferber
August 12, 2007
Show Choir! The Musical is a completely entertaining experience, and a wonderful example of having one's cake and eating it too, or, to put it another way: a guilty pleasure.
Mark McDaniels and Donald Garverick bring us a high energy, large cast production that purports to satirize the style and music of high school show choir. The opening number involves sequined ensembles, jazz hands, a live band, and the kind of out-there belting that is just impossible not to love. These two are out to show us a good time and they succeed.
The show is told as a look back on the career of high school show choir The Symphonic Sensations, and their passionate leader, Mr. Jake Jonathan (Brian Michael Flanagan). All Mr. Jonathan wants is to show the world the magic of show choir. As one member of his team says, "That's how it is with Jake. Life's a big medley. Either sing and dance along with him, or get the hell away."
The vehicle for this tell-all is a TV show called "Beyond the Façade." Mr. Jonathan gathers a group of various kids for his team, among them a hunk who makes clear that even though he's doing show choir, he still loves football; a headband-wearing stoner; a scheming, vindictive back-row performer; a plucky fellow who tells us he's incredibly talented and knows it; a good girl who does her best to say no to partying; and a variety of other personalities.
The direction by Gary Slavin and musical direction by Jeffrey Campos keep all cast mates on the same plane here; everyone's camping it up to the highest level.
The only teeny-tiny thing I'll say is this: Early on, Mr. Jonathan discovers that the costume lady, Janelle, played by the fierce Yolanda Batts (such a presence), can sing. Really sing. Only thing is, she is shy about singing due to an earlier mishap in her life. This fear is cleared up very quickly, in fact within the same scene. I would have loved to see the moment milked for all its dramatic potential. It would have made for a wonderful moment later in the show if there were an undercurrent of "will she be able to conquer her fear" and then we get to see Batts belt out that strong voice in a moment of celebration. (Just a thought.)
The show is hip, modern, makes references to American Idol, uses cell phones in funny ways, and allows us to enjoy lyrics that run from super-smart to intentionally sappy (yet still smart). From the start this team of writers and performers have given us permission to enjoy the unapologetic, full-on attempt to please that is show choir (and Show Choir!).