BOTTOM LINE: A new musical by an up-and-coming composer that shows a lot of promise musically, but still needs some work.
Lovers is a new musical that is currently running as part of the 11th annual Midtown International Theatre Festival at The Beckett Theatre. This new musical starts with a funeral and traces the rocky eight year relationship of Chip (Will Taylor) and Jolie (Courtney Hammond). Chip, a starving artist, meets Jolie; they fall in love and move in together in Brooklyn. They both abandon their artistic dreams and get full time "survival" jobs in Manhattan that eventually take over their entire lives. And then [spoiler alert!] Jolie meets someone else and leaves Chip, who gets moody and depressed and then commits suicide.
The music in Lovers is really great and the band that plays it is extremely talented. But although I wanted to love this show, as I was watching it I felt like I had seen this before. To me, Lovers feels like a warmed-over version of The Last Five Years with a little bit of the cool factor of the recent Off-Broadway hit Rooms thrown in for good measure. All of the press for the show calls it an "ambitious" new musical and I feel that this is the main problem with this production. It takes itself way too seriously, and by doing this it alienates the audience a little. I truly loved some of the songs but I didn't love the two main characters. So after a while, I just stopped caring. Currently, the show runs just a little over two hours. If there were some major cuts, I feel that this could be a very successful hour and twenty minutes of musical theatre.
The strongest moments come from Courtney Hammond who gives it her all in her performance as Jolie. Her voice is great and she truly shines in the moments where she is allowed to really dig into the rock score. I wanted more of that. While Lovers is by no means a great musical, it is worth a look if you are hungry for some new musical theatre in these warm summer months. There are a lot of good things about Lovers. It is clear that this is the composer's first full-length musical. Over time, I'm sure he will find his stride and produce some great work. Christopher Massimine is a composer who shows great promise and I look forward to what he does in the future.
(Lovers, part of the Midtown International Theatre Festival, plays at Theatre Row's Beckett Theatre, 410 West 42nd Street, through August 1, 2010. Remaining performances are Wednesday July 21 at 8pm, Saturday July 24 at 9pm, Wednesday July 28 at 2pm, and Sunday August 1 at 2pm. Tickets are $18 and can be purchased by calling 212-279-4200 or by visiting www.ticketcentral.com. For more information visit www.LoversMusical.com.)