nytheatre.com review by Nicole Bournas-Ney
August 21, 2009
This show, just like the treat sold by its title character, is a wonderful, sweet confection. Playing on America's Starbucks addiction, the Mother Goose rhymes of our childhoods, and various traditions of modern musical theatre, author and director Camille Harris debuts in FringeNYC with a highly enjoyable, frothy (latte style, of course!) musical. The show centers around a young high school student, Lyla (Samantha Blain), who is spending the summer as a barista at The Perky Coffee Bean. She falls hard for the Muffin Man (Michael Hill), a childhood friend who delivers muffins from his family's bakery every morning. Meanwhile, the other main character in the play, coffee shop owner Sadie (Shaye Troha), is the object of affection of one of the shop's zany regulars, Kevin (Scott Raymond Johnson).
The show's framework allows Harris to provide the audience with numerous opportunities to laugh at its own coffee-guzzling culture. The charming group numbers sung by the customers extol the virtues of being hyper-caffeinated at all times. And newfangled coffee drinks get a ribbing of their own, as Lyla fumbles through trying to fill Starbucks-style orders for ridiculous creations like non-fat double soy chai and light caramel machiatto with foam and rice milk.
Harris, at the same time, also pokes fun at landmarks of the genre she is working in. Kevin, who is madly in love with Sadie, is a musician who spends the entire show at a table in the coffee shop trying to write "the song," very much a la Rent, but with a cheerful, caffeinated bent. And the hilarious finale—in which Lyla tries to figure out how to explain her feelings to the Muffin Man while at the same time questioning whether she should even be talking at all—seems to be paying winking homage to Stephen Sondheim's iconic, blindingly fast lyrics, in particular (if I don't miss my guess) Company's classic "Getting Married Today."
This musical doesn't pretend to be making any serious social commentary or presenting an intricately plotted storyline—it is simply attempting to be silly and joyful and to show the audience a really good time. And by the end of the performance, when one sees so many silly grins on the faces of those who have come to see the show, one can't help but admit that Muffin Man has most certainly accomplished its mission.