Monday, June 10, 2013

theatre review F#%KING UP EVERYTHING, Off Broadway, May 30

The new Off Broadway "rock" musical
F#%king Up Everything is a throw back to the old fashioned "boy meets girl, but with complications" love story that's been around forever.

Following a small group of young Brooklyn hipsters, this is a sweet and charming show and while the story is far from original and you can predict from the start where almost every character will end up, it's still a fun show with an engaging cast, some sweet songs and a rocking on-stage band.

Max Crumm

Nerdy Christian (Max Crumm) and jock/bad boy Jake (Jason Gotay) are best friends.  Jake is the lead singer of a band who's trying to make it in the Brooklyn rock scene and Christian is a children's puppeteer.  They are almost complete opposites in their looks, demeanor and lines of work but make a good duo.  When Jake's gal pal Ivy (Dawn Cantwell) introduces her college friend, singer songwriter Juliana (Katherine Cozumel) to the group, Christian falls hard for her, though is concerned that the more experienced in love Jake will complicate matters by turning on his bad boy charms.  Add in the fact that Ivy secretly loves Jakes and two other supporting characters, Ivy's sometime boyfriend and full time stoner Tony (Douglas Widick) who plays in Jake's band and band promoter Arielle (Lisa Birnbaum) who can make or break an up and coming band and you've got an interesting cast of characters who all have things to gain and lose in this modern day story of romance, rock and puppets.

Katherine Cozumel and Max Crumm
The story follows the unconventional courtship of Christian and Juliana, he is nerdy, clumsy and not exactly attractive and she is everything he isn't, but they form an almost immediate connection and end up bringing out the best in each other.  Now you know right away that they will end up together, no matter what obstacles they encounter. So I don't think I'm divulging any spoilers by revealing that but Sam Forman and David Eric Davis who collaborated on the book with Forman supplying the music and lyrics have created realistic characters and situations in a completely self aware show. The book has fresh and real dialogue with plenty of humor and Davis' score has a wide spectrum of songs including some upbeat numbers, emotional ballads and comical numbers. And while not all of them land perfectly, the range of styles and effective use of lyrics makes you pay attention.

Jason Gotay, Lisa Birnbaum and Max Crumm
Jen Wineman skillfully directs and choreographs the well honed young and energetic cast that features Max Crumm as Christian.  Crumm rose to fame by winning the role of Danny in the recent 2007 Broadway revival of Grease on the tv competition show Grease- You're the One that I Want that also saw Laura Osnes win the role of Sandy in that competitive reality show.   Osnes has followed her Grease run by winning two Tony nominations and starring in several Broadway productions, concerts and just released her second solo recording.  Crumm hasn't had such a high profile career as Osnes but this musical perfectly shows off his talents and proves that his winning that tv competition wasn't a fluke.  He makes Christian a real, grounded person and throws himself into the part.  While this is an ensemble show, Christian is really the central character and this production is lucky to have Crumm in the part.

Dawn Cantwell, Douglas Widick and Katherine Cozumel
Gotay is the hip, attractive rock star Jake who could be a caricature role.  Thankfully Gotay has the right balance to not make it a one dimensional part and Forman and Davis have created some interesting situations to put Jake into that give Gotay some nice moments to show off his comic abilities.  Katherine Cozumel is winning as Juliana.  She not only looks beautiful but plays the ukulele as well!  Rounding out the cast are Cantwell, Burnbaum and Widick who all get some nice stage time.  Cantwell gets to show off her sensitive side with the power ballad "If You Were Mine" where she pours out her feelings for Jake and even though Birnbaum doesn't show up until about half way through the show, she enters singing "Fuck-It List" which is a very funny song that allows Birnbaum to blow the roof off of the theatre with her high powered voice.  Widick is just hilarious as the stoner with a secret and rocks out big time when he plays with the on-stage band. 

The band must also not be forgotten, including drummer George Salazar who is featured in a few scenes, guitarist Adam Stoler and keyboardist, guitarist Eli Zoller who also serves as the music director.  They are having a fun time playing the rock inspired score.  Set designer Deb O makes effective use of the simple, small space and the puppet designs by David Valentine are truly inspired. 

F#%king Up Everything isn't the most original or greatest show to hit New York this year, but it is fresh, inspired, upbeat and realistic with a winning cast, characters and dialogue that have a genuine self awareness and a score with some nice tunes.   It's a fun show that makes for a fun night out at the theatre.

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