Friday, May 14, 2010

Adopting "The Kid"

The Kid
Book by Michael Zam
Lyrics by Jack Lechner
Music by Andy Monroe
Based on the book by Dan Savage
Musical staging by Josh Prince
Directed by Scott Elliott
Starring Kevin Anthony, Zachary Berger, Susan Blackwell, Jane Brockman, Jill Eikenberry, Jeannine Frumess, Ann Harada, Tyler Maynard, Brooke Sunny Moriber, Justin Patterson, Christopher Sieber, Lucas Steele, Michael Wartella

Performances began April 16, 2010
The New Group
410 West 42nd Street

If you don't know who Dan Savage is before seeing The Kid, you will just moments into this hilarious, humane musical about Dan and his lover Terry’s attempt to adopt a baby. Savage is author of the savagely funny column, “Savage Love,” giving profane answers to no-holds-barred queries about sexual proclivities still considered taboo. These people earnestly asking for advice about their peccadilloes in the opening number “I’m Asking You” comically drop us right into Dan’s lap, so to speak..

Expertly directed by Scott Elliot, The Kid makes no bones about being a conventional musical about an unconventional couple. After demonstrating that Dan—portrayed by the impressively laidback Christopher Sieber, as subtle and low-key as he was boisterously over-the-top in Shrek and Spamalot—deals with questions outside the usual purview of Ann Landers or Dear Abby, The Kid spends the rest of its pleasantly heart-tugging two-and-a-half hours following a quintessentially American gay couple wanting to settle down, live in suburbia and raise a family.

For some viewers, that might signal some kind of retreat. But the creators of The Kid are too smart not to know that the best musicals have a heart: we wouldn't enjoy watching the hippies in Hair or the drag queens in La cage aux Folles if we didn't care about what happens to them. And so it is with The Kid, which doesn't have the need for a foul-mouthed Dan spouting off against hypocritical right-wing politicians or gently beating up readers who admit to eternally screwed-up relationships. Instead, with Dan narrating their story, he and Terry are shown in a broader context, like any other prospective parents who worry about how to handle a newborn or wonder if they’ll make any lasting impression on their child.

To that end, The Kid introduces Dan's relationship with his open-minded mother, played by the supremely gifted and always appealing Jill Eikenberry. Mom first comes onstage to banter with her son and assure those in the audience who might not identify with or understand Dan's lifestyle that she'll explain things that need explaining, like “tea bagging” (which is not, however, explained). Eikenberry has a sweetly casual charm that puts the audience at ease; although she has only has a disappointingly brief scene in Act I, she compensates with her Act II scene-stealing, topped by the heartfelt “I Knew,” the show's standout song.

Based on Savage's 1999 memoir, The Kid boasts a smartly amusing book by Michael Zam, whose zesty comic pacing makes Jack Lechner’s hit-and-miss lyrics and Andy Munroe’s serviceable music sound better than they are. Although Lechner hits lyrical bulls-eyes on the biting “They Hate Us” and haunting ballad “Spare Changin’,” Munroe's music glides reassuringly throughout: but only in the satirical “Gore Vidal” and reassuring “I Knew” do words and music transcend their otherwise professional competence.

Happily, the production itself is top-notch. Lucas Steele's deftly-acted Terry is a perfectly handsome foil for Sieber's Dan, proving once again that opposites attract. Josh Prince stages the musical numbers with comic dexterity: the songs kicking off each act, “I’m Asking You” and “We’re Asking You?”, are tongue-in-cheek mirrors of each other, musically and visually. The throwaway dance tune “Seize the Day” is nimbly choreographed for maximum effect, with the excellent cast moved around so mischievously that it belies the small stage—upon which Derek McLane’s spiffy set and Jeff Scher’s animated projections work handily.

The Kid threatens to become sentimental mush as the men fret over their unborn adoptee, whose mother is homeless, alcoholic teenager Melissa (played with bruising naturalness by Jeannine Frumess): the no-good father Bacchus (a lacerating Kevin Wartella) unexpectedly returns to make trouble. But whenever it’s ready to plunge into a sappy abyss, The Kid—aided by its creators' refreshing refusal to overdose on cynicism—easily wins us over.
also posted on and

No comments: