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A CurtainUp Review
By Elyse Sommer
Sex columnist Dan Savage and his boyfriend, on whose 1997 journey of becoming dads to their now 12-year-old son the cleverly staged and splendidly performed new musical The Kid is based, certainly aren't the average American as apple pie couple once considered the only worthy prospects by adoption agencies. But neither are two dad or two mom households quite the anomaly they might have been years ago — and La Cage aux Folles is back on Broadway to remind us that Dan and Terry are not the first gay guys to sing about the joys and pitfalls of bringing up baby.
But as every story about raising a child is unique, no matter how it comes about, Dan and Terry's path through the adoption maze is not just a fact based update of the Georges and Albin story. The La Cage couple became parents as a result of Georges' one-night stand with a woman with no interest in motherhood. Their story takes place after the son they've raised together is grown up and denies his nurturing mother (Albin) to please his fiance's straightlaced parents. Dan and Terry are not accidental parents but a couple yearning to experience the joys of parenthood. The Kid's focus is thus on their navigating the decidedly slippery slope of an open adoption process.
This is a first New York theater venture for book writer Michael Zam as well as composer Andy Monroe and the lyricist Jack Lechner. Zam smartly opted to let Dan, the author of the source memoir serve as the show's narrator and Christopher Siebert brings charm, humor and warmth to the role. The fourth wall breaking narrator format puts Dan at the computer where he composes his column, and allows the internalized narrative to spring into action. That action takes us not only through the details of the adoption process but spends time on Dan and his younger partner Terry's (Lucas Steele) relationship. Dan's discovery that Terry is not just a handsome blonde but a well-read, intelligent young man is amusingly celebrated with a witty duet aptly titled "Gore Vidal." The warmth of that relationship also clarifies why the various adoption counsellors (Ann Harrada and Susan Blackwell) recognized their potential as good parents
To further deepen the emotional aspects of the story, we get to know Dan's supportive mother (the delightful Jill Eikenberry who, though she doesn't have an especially strong voice, deserves more than one song); also Melissa, the less than ideal birthmother (a touching Jeannine Frumess whose "Spare Changin'" is a deserved show stopper) and Bacchus the birthfather (Michael Wartella, who manages to soften an unsympathetic character with his delivery of "Behind the Wheel").
Like so many shows this season, The Kid is enormously enriched by inventive direction amd sophisticated technical staging. The imaginative animation and projection work of Jeff Scher and Aron Deyo transforms the windows of Dan and Terry's Seattle apartment into a panorma of lively images. The way the images can and often do pop on stage allows the ensemble members to multi-task as Dan's readers, some would-be adoptive parents, and adoption agency administrators. The actors handle their multiple roles with great verve; Susan Blackwell, gets the the best opportunity to shine as Anne, the no-nonsense but astute and caring counsellor to Dan, Terry and Melissa.
Ultimately this is a feel good story with a moving happy-hokey concluding scenario that they will either strike you as overdosing on the heart tug or leave your throat tight with emotion (I saw quite a few people still wiping their eyes with damp tissues as I left the theater).
The music by the excellent 6-member band (invisible except for a curtain call that projects them onto those magical windows) is melodic. The lyrics rhyme without straining and support the story. . Though it's hard to tell from just one hearing, the songs work best within the show's context and none seem to have free standing breakout potential shades of "I Am What I Am" from La Cage.
But why compare? This is a gently entertaining addition to a season when Gay stories have been given a chance to come into their own. Besides intelligently reconceived revivals (The Boys in the Band and the already mentioned La Cage ) there were new plays (The Temperementals, Next Fall, The Pride). And now the season's brand-new gay musical, the Broadway bound Yank is joined by The Kid.
Now, if only someone could write an interesting play about Lesbians. Why are Gay women and their trials, tribulations and triumphs so overlooked in the theater?