It feels exciting and even uplifting to attend the first performance of a new show. This one, My Life Is A Musical, has a cute idea, some amusing moments, and some fine performances from its principals and excellent ensemble players. On the other hand, the characters are thin, the story loose with predictable outcomes, and the music uninventive.
What’s the cute idea? Parker, who’s otherwise an uptight accountant, has a peculiar and lyrical trait: he hears ordinary conversation as singing as in musicals, a quirk he hides because it makes him feel weird. Like Jim Carrey in Liar Liar who can’t help telling the truth, Parker is mechanically locked in to a quirk he can’t help, leading to unavoidable — and potentially amusing — misunderstandings in his dealings with others.
Roped in to being the accountant for a touring rock group, Parker encounters JT, the bouncy girl who’s group manager and Zach, its main singer. Since Parker is introverted and inexperienced with girls, and is used to hiding the truth about himself, he doesn’t confess his love to JT. Meanwhile, with his special gift for hearing songs everywhere, he’s feeding Zach songs based on everything from fragments of overheard conversations to the words in his own heart about his growing love for JT. Sure, Zach’s great at putting a song across but he has no soul within to write one himself (an unkind satire of rock musicians that I take in with skepticism). Anyhow, Cyrano de Bergerac–like, JT falls in love with Zach who’s singing Parker’s love songs
And Zach, played by Justin Matthew Sargent, is great at putting a song across and some of the most enjoyable moments of the show are when he’s playing and singing. The songs and styles are spoofs on famous singers: “I’m just an ordinary dog,” sings the gyrating Zach.
As Zach and the group rise to success because of Parker’s terrific songs (if only they were terrific, but they’re not), Randy, a music blogger who senses there’s something funny about the group’s sudden improvement, comes sneaking around in the guise of a suspicious detective to find out “the truth” about Parker and the group. Randy, a spoof on “detectives you have known” from Sherlock Holmes to The Pink Panther and others in between, sings the song “What Have You Got To Hide” in the “Hernando’s Hideaway” style of covert excitement that’s enlivened many shows before. Robert Cuccioli is theatrically commanding and archly funny as Randy, and the character lends itself to some engaging second act farce.
That’s a big improvement over what goes for humor in the first act: I wish someone would explain to me why the phrase “It sucks” (variants he sucks, she…they…) used about eight times early in the show, gets a laugh out of the audience every time. Why?
Howie Michael Smith as Parker who comes out of his shell in the course of the show has a couple of introspective songs that come near to poignant but since he’s the only even partly genuine character, the others being amusing but campy caricatures (Randy, Zach) or cliché (JT), the songs spin off into nowhere. Generally the songs, though energetically performed, tend to blend in to one another. Put another way, “one doesn’t leave humming.” The singers are miked, which should be unnecessary for professionals, all the more in a small theater.
Early on Parker confesses his quirk of hearing conversation as music — too bad because, he says, “I don’t like musicals.” In spite of a laugh or two, I don’t think this one would have changed his mind.
My Life Is A Musical plays at Bay Street Theater in Sag Harbor, Long Island, NY through August 31.