note: entire contents copyright 2008 by Beverly Creasey
If you haven’t heard of the F.U.D.G.E. Theatre Company, take note. They may be a small startup but they make a big impact with musicals: Their INTO THE WOODS and BATBOY were delightful. Now they’re tackling Damon Intrabartolo and John Hartmere’s Ovation Award winning BARE. This jam-packed musical is almost entirely sung through, with enough music and stories for two shows! Act I alone has nineteen songs.
Intrabartolo’s music will remind you of RENT and JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR but Hartmere’s lyrics are refreshingly naughty. Once you hear his birthday song (“Happy birthday bitch”) you’ll never want to sing the old one again. The best numbers are the comic songs, like Hartmere’s wonderfully nasty take on everyone else’s upbeat “Spring” songs---or his cheeky ‘60s girl group send-up, “911 Emergency.”
The main characters are two roommates who find themselves attracted to each other, a definite taboo at a Catholic boarding school. Their trials and tribulations are grist for the dramatic mill as they flirt with sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll. (Things never change, I guess.) And just so you’ll think BARE is highbrow, there’s a Shakespearean parallel at work. I was beginning to think the iambic pentameter of ROMEO AND JULIET was a bit much when it paid off with a nifty laugh. During the drama club rehearsal, Juliet’s nurse gave the finicky Juliet a smack!
The main reasons to see director Joe DeMita’s smart production of BARE are the vibrant performances. Samuel Moscoso plays Jason, the heart throb of the senior class. He’s charismatic, athletic—and passing as straight. Moscoso gives a powerhouse performance as the teen trying to live up to his parents’ and society’s expectations but it’s Keri-Ann Maguire who steals the show as his tough-talking, cynical sister (unstoppable in numbers like “Plain Jane Fat Ass”). Trevor Croft plays Jason’s charming, effervescent roommate who’s also straining under parental and religious pressure to be a “good” Catholic.
Ashley Yarnell plays the sex kitten who, unfortunately for her, sets her sights on Jason and Andrew Mackin is the teen who pines for Yarnell and spills the beans about who’s sleeping with whom. Lara Simpson gets the musical’s redemptive anthem, “God Don’t Make No Trash” and most of the laughs as the hilariously impatient drama club nun. Joseph Mullin delivers a knockout rap rant (and the Friar Lawrence potion) as everyone’s drug connection at the school. Brian Durham gives the confessional priest a sympathetic ear and Ursina Amsler portrays the only other adult in the musical as a flawed and overwhelmed mother.
Jason Whiting gets lovely harmonies from his orchestra and superior vocals from the entire cast. Chris Kingston’s stained glass panels looming over multiple bare levels never let you forget the church’s role in this cautionary tale.