Take whatever musical comedy you recall and be ready to suspend disbelief when you go, as you should, to see “My Life Is a Musical,” which had its world premiere at the Bay Street Theater on Saturday night.
Adam Overett, who wrote the music, lyrics, and book, knows what’s been on stage and in film in the last few decades, and he draws upon that familiarity in a two-act tour de force, which is both satiric and sentimental with a bit of pop psychology, romance, and Marx Brothers mayhem. They’re ingredients for success.
There are four main characters with whom you might empathize, or sometimes think you resemble, and a four-person peripatetic Greek chorus, an ensemble whose members sing and dance and change personas and costumes in the blink of an eye. With so much going on the play might well have fallen apart, but this is a talented cast who, we were told, rehearsed exhaustively, and in the hands of Marlo Hunter, the director and choreographer, they pull it off with impeccable timing. Even the silliest clichés are howls.
The hero is Parker (Howie Michael Smith), an accountant and nice guy who’s a freak because he hears everyone sing when they speak and dance when they move about, accompanied by off-stage music. He is permanently stuck “on a 1950s MGM sound stage.” It should be noted that the set on Bay Street’s semi-circular stage is primarily a series of doors, used to good effect. The musicians are above it all behind a scrim at back.
There’s the love interest, J.T. (Kathleen Elizabeth Monteleone), a Pat Benatar or Cindi Lauper wannabe who can’t carry a tune so she manages a band in order to star “through someone else’s music.” Then there’s Zach (Justin Martin Sargent), a hopelessly untalented singer and guitarist in a terrible rock group called Zeitgeist. Parker’s boss sends him on tour with Zeitgeist with the idea of keeping the group from bankruptcy. Zach’s songs are atrocious. He wriggles to “I am a condor, rising over mountains, coming to eat your dead,” until Parker comes along and secretly provides the songs he’s hearing all around him. The group skyrockets to success.
And there’s Randy (Robert Cuccioli), a double-oh-seven-style blogger who wants a scoop on what’s behind Zeitgeist’s sudden success, and eventually confesses that his life isn’t a musical — it’s a spy novel! Parker has encounters with Randy at 1 a.m. in a bar called At Midnight and at a hotel called At the Corner (which is in the middle of a block). Brian Sills, Adam Daveline, Danyel Fulton, and Wendi Bergamini, the ensemble players, and the staging when Parker goes to the hotel looking for Randy, are ridiculously funny. And, of course, everyone sings.
Parker and J.T. really can sing, and in character. He has the best songs, and the most. We begin to care about him when he pleads for silence in sweet tones: “Only a breeze that rustles the trees, then perfect silence — no one to sing and dance.” As for J.T., Ms. Monteleone certainly has what it takes to belt it out, but she brings down the house when, doing karaoke in a bar in Springfield, Ill., where Zeitgeist is on tour, she is hilariously off-key.
It’s during the karaoke episode that Parker begins to realize what he’s missing by hiding the truth about his life, and although J.T. soon sends him away thinking he’s betrayed her, it’s no surprise that love takes over. He decides to come clean and chases her across the country — there are several jiggly trips by bus, train, plane, and kayak — to the Scorched Earth Festival (think Burning Man), where Zeitgeist is to star. He bursts on stage as Zach is about to sing. J.T. comes out from the wings, and Parker tells her, and the world, that his life is a musical. It even seems that she has begun to hear the music.
All good musicals need at least one song to take away as you leave the theater, and there is one here. We hear “Sing to Me” at the end of the first act after Parker, for the first time, doesn’t want the music to stop, and again in the finale when he sings, “Speak to me. All you have to do, I swear, is speak to me, and it’ll be the Symphonie Fantastique to me. I’ve never heard this melody before. My life is a musical . . . and you are the best song in the score.” Everyone joins in as the footlights fade.
My guess is that Adam Overett goes about his daily life with a song in his head. If so, “My Life Is a Musical,” which will run through the end of the month, is a metaphor taken to zany extremes.