Written By Vinnie Favale and Frankie Keane; Directed and Choreographed by Terry Berliner
Off Broadway, New Musical
Open Ended Run
Snapple Theater Center, 1627 Broadway
Frankie Keane and Michelle Cabinian at the Hereafter Musical press event. Photo by Kelsey Balzli.
BOTTOM LINE: Hereafter Musical offers a multidimensional view of the afterlife, tackling the topic of death with a refreshing score and talented ensemble.
Given the sometimes morbid stories that fill daily news, I try to avoid the topic of death when I go to the theatre. With book, music, and lyrics written by CBS Late Night President and funny man, Vinnie Favale, I was pleasantly surprised with Hereafter Musical's overall upbeat score and a story that resonates with audience members from all walks of life.
The development of Hereafter Musical began 11 years ago when Favale first read about a local 18-year old killed in a drunk driving accident. The musical follows three women (Courtney Capek, Deborah Tranelli, and Carolyn Mignini) who visit a psychic (Paul Blankenship) to connect with their late loved ones. Those spirits materialize to the audience but not to the grieving women, as both groups struggle to simply move on. While the living share their stories, the spirits deal with the ultimate question: should they connect with their living family members and move on to the hereafter?
The story of Hereafter Musical details the afterlife, but there are many plot points that reverberate with audience members across the board. While the relationship between the deceased starlet Anita (Frankie Keane) and psychic seems a bit far-fetched, I was particularly moved by the almost tangible emotional connection between mother Mary (Carolyn Mignini) and her late son, Eddie (played by Travis Artz at this performance), who died at the age of nineteen. A very pregnant Debbie (Courtney Capek) deals with the loss of her mother Sypie (Deborah Tranelli) and sings “Lost,” a tear-jerking ballad that reflects on both the fear of dying and moving on after death.
Perhaps the most poignant number is “Waiting,” sung by the entire company. I was taken aback by how this particular song packaged the theme of the show perfectly while also showcasing the vocal power of the cast. While there were moments in the musical that seemed a bit repetitive (i.e. anxiety about what’s in the hereafter), the individualization of the grieving process is beautifully communicated. As Mary points out, “we tell the same old stories because there’s nothing new to replace them with.”
This show is not suitable for younger audiences given the discussion of suicide, but it’s family-friendly for teens and up. While the story relies heavily on such grim themes, Keane and Favale’s music and lyrics cleverly juxtapose lighthearted numbers with heart-wrenching ballads. Hereafter Musical is built on the idea that life moves on after death, and the only thing missing from the book is a more definitive place for the musical's conclusion.
(Hereafter Musical plays at the Snapple Theatre Center, 1627 Broadway, in an open-ended run. Performances are Saturdays at 4:45PM. Tickets are $84. For tickets visit hereaftermusical.com or call 212-921-7862.)