Review: Edges the Musical (Circle Theatre)

| February 8, 2014
Molly Kral and Greg Foster in Edges the Musical, Circle Theatre        
      
Edges: The Musical

Written by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul
Directed by Daren Leonard
Chicago Actors Studio, 2040 N. Elston (map)
thru March 2  |  tickets: $28-$30   |  more info
       
Check for half-price tickets 
    
        
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It’s tough out there for 20somethings….

     

Jill Sesso, Greg Foster, Henry McGinniss and Molly Kral in Edges the Musical, Circle

    
Circle Theatre presents
    
Edges: The Musical

Review by Catey Sullivan 

It’s tough out there for a 20something. In the fraught third decade of life, you’ve got to figure out how to be – or at least effectively pretend to be – a real, live grownup. In the immortal words of T. Swift: You’re happy free, confused and lonely at the same time. Really, it’s exhausting.

With Edges, a foursome of game singer/dancer/actors take on Benj Pasek and Justin Paul’s song cycle about surviving your 20s, with results that range from charming to really annoying. About the latter: as 20somethings, naval gazing and self importance go together like Ross and Rachel; it is, after all, the decade when (theoretically anyway) you’ve got to get your shit more or less together, get a job, move out of your parents’ basement and survive at least one long-term-ish relationship.

Jill Sesso and Henry McGinniss in Edges the MusicalThat’s a tall order for any decade, but that that doesn’t make it especially heroic. It’s just the way life spools out. The trouble with Pasek and Paul’s show is that it presents these rites-of-passage as if they were absolutely unique and utterly heroic, as Man 1 (Henry McGinniss), Man 2 (Greg Foster), Woman 1 (Jill Sesso) and Woman 2 (Molly Kral) sing about their Capital "I" Issues with the fortitude and endurance of Shackleton’s marooned expeditioners. There were times during Edges when I just wanted to interject the show with a grumpy ‘Look guys, stop making such a big deal out of everything. It’s not like you’re stranded in the Antarctic chowing down on your last sled dog."

That said, I’m probably not the target audience for Edges: The Musical. I remember my 20s. I, like most, survived them relatively intact. But I’m not inclined to spend hours mulling over that time in college when I thought I was in love but I really wasn’t; or that other time when I was working in Rite Aid, dreaming of selling my baseball cards and blowing town forever.

That’s the rub of musicals (Rent and Spring Awakening being the rare exceptions) about this particular age group. The undeniably intense feelings delivered by the score are steeped in an attitude that only someone of the singers’ generation is capable of truly feeling such all-but unbearably intense pain and joy. Especially in the exploratory years spanning college and beyond, we all want to believe that we are unique special snowflakes in our marrow-deep angst and our momentous self-discoveries. To be fair, we are….just like millions of others are.

Still, some of the lyrics here are real eye-rollers: The worst possible fate for these millennials? Winding up stuck in Indiana (an easy target, that state), where "You end up like your dad. It’s really as sad as it seems."

That said, Pasek and Paul do have some engaging and funny songs in their cycle. "Along the Way" (aptly sung by Foster) is a hilariously all-too-common tale of a classroom pet who suffers a horrific and untimely death. That’s the first half of the number anyway. Then, unfortunately, it morphs into an overly earnest, utterly banal meditation on fatherhood. Another stand-out is “In Short”, nailed by Foster with vicious comic timing. It’s a riotous compendium of deliciously inappropriate outbursts. It’s vivid, imaginative and utterly relatable whether you’re 26 or 96.

Greg Foster, Henry McGinniss, Molly Kral and Jill Sesso in Edges the Musical

Director Daren Leonard is not so successful with the Precious Moments Figurines Come to Life cuteness of “I Hmm You”, wherein two adorably bashful lovers tiptoe like baby bunnies around taking their rhetoric to the next level. Better is “Be My Friend, an impossibly catchy ode to ‘the Facebook’ (why it’s not just ‘Facebook’ is anyone guess.)

The quartet on stage is in fine voice and Foster, especially, has an edgy humor to him that makes even the most self-involved lyrics take on an edge of irony. As Man 1, McGinniss – still an undergrad at Roosevelt University’s Chicago College of Performing Arts – has a capable voice, but unfortunately embodies all the oh-so-very serious sense of self-discovery that mars the show. Kral has a sweet, innocent soprano that serves the score well, including the troublesome “Perfect”. (Troublesome because it’s essentially a girl singing about how she wants/needs to be perfect for her man. A tip from the post-20s: If you feel compelled to be perfect for somebody, they aren’t worth your time.) And Sesso brings a rich, vibrant sense of genuine conflict to “Lying There” – for my money, the best song in the cycle.

The real star of Edges? That would be the marvelously expressive pianist Ilana Atkins. Making her Chicago debut with this show, she obviously has killer keyboard skills and the emotional heft to really make the notes resonate. Hopefully she’ll be gracing many more Chicago musical productions in the future.

  
Rating: ★★½
  
   

Edges: The Musical continues through Date at Chicago Actors Studio, 2040 N. Elston (map), with performances Thursdays-Saturdays at 8pm, Sundays 3pm.  Tickets are $28-$30, and are available by phone (773-904-8756) or online through BrownPaperTickets.com (check for half-price tickets at Goldstar.com). More information at Circle-Theatre.org.

Jill Sesso, Greg Foster, Henry McGinniss and Molly Kral in Edges the Musical

Photos by Kathleen Davis


     

artists

cast

Jill Sesso, Greg Foster, Henry McGinniss, Molly Kral 

behind the scenes

Daren Leonard (director), Ilana Atkins (music director), Mark Abrahamson (stage manager), Jon Landvick* (scenic design, artistic director), Mark Abrahamson (lighting design), Shawn Quinlan* (costume design), Kathleen Davis (photos)

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Category: 2014 Reviews, Catey Sullivan, Chicago Actors Studio, Circle Theatre, Musical, Musical Revue

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