note: entire contents copyright 2010 by Sheila Barth
Regardless of its fast-rising popularity, there’s little to sing praises about at Stoneham Theatre’s production of “Perfect Harmony,” a spoof about high school a cappella groups. In fact, it doesn’t live up to its pre-press hype.
The information states, “‘Perfect Harmony’ exposes the cut-throat competition of glee clubs and the even more cut-throat competition of high school. Through song and story, these students grapple with the weighty issues of truth, love, what constitutes appropriate choreography for the national championships, and ultimately the true nature of harmony.” Furthermore, it’s a “PG-13 comical expose’ of high school and glee club competition.”
Not exactly. There’s no cut-throat competition. There’s no real pathos. Instead, there’s a male and female a cappella group from the same high school who vie for first place in regional and national competition. There’s also inner conflict among individuals in these groups of adolescent misfits.
The Acafellas won national championships 17 times and are vying for their 18th win, while the Ladies in Red, perennial runners-up, want to win the trophy. Their angst is heighened when they learn the national competition will be broadcast on MTV-3.
The Acafellas are composed of leaders Philip Fellowes V (portrayed by Kobi Libii) and Lassiter A. Jayson III, (Robbie Collier Sublett) who avoid each other because their grandfathers, alumni glee club leaders, created a scandal when they were exposed as gay lovers. Philip is antiseptically homophobic, avoiding all contact with Lassiter, while Lassiter wants to shake things up by changing their repertoire, placing art above public popularity. The girls are having second thoughts, too. Leader Melody McDaniels (Dana Acheson) wants to change their song and delivery.
These philosophical differences create low-key dissension.
Perhaps author-director Andrew Grosso, (who is artistic director of the Essentials, a group of performers who helped develop the plot and create their characters) should refine the script and develop the characters more. The 10 quirky teens with individual idiosyncrasies create perfect harmony singing a cappella, but there’s nothing endearing about them. They’re stereotypical nerds who bear a resemblance to the adolescent misfits in “The 25th annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” .
Simon Depardieu, (David Barlow) is the new, freshman recruit, with perfect pitch and a vocal range that scales from baritone to falsetto. Like William Barfee of “Spelling Bee,” Simon is a hypochondriac with mucus problems and other ailments. Both characters insist their names are mispronounced. Simon says he’s Simone, and Barfee insists his surname is Barfay. Both form friendships and puppy love with shy, introverted female competitors; however, singer Valerie Smooter (Farl Amadeus) is more uptight than speller Olive Ostrovsky.
Also, overly-rambunctious singer Meghan Beans (Kelly McCreary) calls upon BVD-clad Jesus (nicely portrayed by Jarid Faubel) for guidance, as does overachieving speller Marcy Park in “Spelling Bee”. Faubel also is funny as J.B. Smooter, the dumb athlete who enjoys singing and is recruited by rock ‘n’ roll manager Kiki Tune to quit school and go professional.
More irritating than original is Kate Morgan Chadwick as Herzegovenia transplant Michaela, nicknamed Mickey D., whose parents were killed in a tractor accident. Her adenoidal, twangy voice and phony accent makes her indiscernible. Exiting the theater, a woman exclaimed, “I couldn’t understand a word she said, but she was cute.” Chadwick redeems herself as sexy Kiki Tune.
Michaela’s older brother and guardian, Goran Dhiardeaubovic, (also portrayed by Barlow), is a boor with raging hormones, and Marie-France Arcilla portrays dual roles as Ladies in Red student manager Kerri and psychologist Toby McClintoch. Clayton Apgar as Acafellas’ Jasper, Meghan and Melody’s objet d’affection, doubles as stammering teacher Dr. Larry Mergh. Nick Francone’s set is handsome with its blackboard that announces key points and highlights; and Brian Jones’ lighting adds atmosphere during solos and duets.
Billed as “the little show that could,” and rated for PG-13 audiences, the play won rave reviews at the 2006 New York International Fringe Festival and was extended in the 2006 Fringe Encore Series. It also enjoyed a sold-out extended run at the Big Apple’s Theatre Row in 2008.
What happened between there and Stoneham?
BOX INFO: Two-act musical comedy written by Andrew Grosso and the Essentials, directed by Grosso, appearing through October 3 at Stoneham Theatre, 395 Main St., Stoneham. Showtimes are Thursdays at 7:30 p.m.; Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 4,8 p.m.; and Sundays at 2 p.m. Opening acts include Boston-area a cappella groups. Tickets are $44-$48; senior discounts; students, $20; student/senior discount matinees also. Call 781-279-2200 or visit www.stonehamtheatre.org.