Collin Frazier,Martin Landry & Josh Woodie in Brunch - The Musical. Photo by Peter James Zielinkski
BOTTOM LINE: Deserves the 20% gratuity and then some
As everyone who has ever worked in a restaurant in New York City knows, working brunch shifts on Saturday and Sunday mornings is absolute and utter hell. Never is there a time when customers are more demanding, inconsiderate, stingy and downright rude. Never is there a time when management is more confrontational, unforgiving, relentless and stressed. Never is there a time when the staff is more...hungover?
Brunch: The Musical explores each and every dreaded aspect of this late morning-early afternoon sitdown. In Brunch, we shadow fourteen restaurant staffers as they navigate the turbulent sea of snooty customers, kitchen chaos and inter-staff relations, all the while, rethinking their place in the restaurant, in New York, and in the world. Brunch is less a slice of life piece about the service industry and more a commentary on the people who come to the city with big dreams and small wallets. It reminds the audience of the heart, passion and courage of those who move to the city in search and fame and fortune, but who instead, at least for a time, find themselves working a job where they are constantly under-appreciated, overworked and overstressed on a daily basis.
Brunch keeps it light in the first act. Each scene is salted with service industry insider gags, but the most of the humor is lost on those who have never experienced the ordeal of waiting on hungry, hungover and therefore irritable patrons. General audiences will snort mimosas through their noses, however, during the chef's ode to culinary cacophony, "If I Vas a Vaiter." Other songs such as "I'd Say No," however, only cater to the service set.
Act II is more somber in tone and is somewhat a letdown following such a high-energy first act. Although the second act does dig deeper into the characters as people, the result is overly dramatic and unbelievable. Brunch seems to struggle with identity. Is it a silly musical with catchy pop numbers and laugh-out-loud comedic scenes? Or rather, is it a musical that hopes to share the struggles of the young, bohemian New Yorker searching for security and self while relying on the kindness of strangers? Brunch: The Musical has amazing potential to achieve both, but requires a couple more re-writes to do so. The number, "City," for example, nicely and evenly blends the two, but is unfortunately, placed in Act I where its energy and passion is not needed.
The cast is fantastic vocally, but appears slightly under-rehearsed in regards to dancing. Like the singing, however, the acting is spot-on with remarkable performances by Judah Frank and Kevin Thomas Collins. The ensemble is strong and the band is flawless and each does their part to accurately define the reality of the play. The producers and creators of Brunch, Rick Kunzi and Adam Barnosky, present a four-star experience.
(Brunch: The Musical performs every Thrusday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday at 8pm until April 25th at the American Theatre of Actors, Chernuchin Theatre, 314 West 54th Street between 8th and 9th Avenues. Tickets are $18 and are available at the door or online at www.brunchthemusical.com.)