When I heard the description of the Off-Broadway production of Bare, I trumped up images of Broadway’s Spring Awakening with a gay plot. As I scrambled through the actors’ bios, it did not surprise me to learn that there were at least four who were either in the Broadway version or touring. That’s not bad since I happened to have loved Spring Awakening (saw it three times).
Curtain opens…oh, that’s right…there is no curtain. The set has back and side fixtures of dozens of photos. I couldn’t get close enough to see, but I think that they were photos of the students that were probably taken via a cell phone or such.
Peter, (Taylor Trensch) a 16-year-old and sort of nerdy looking boy is upstage. We are in the hallways of St. Cecilia’s Church. There is a large photo behind him stretched across the top of half the stage, that of high school students in the cast. “I was asked to say a few words. I thought I should begin by telling you who I am. You know how, when you see a group picture, you try to find yourself in it? I never do that. I’m always surprised I’m there. I have a photographic memory. Another thing you probably didn’t know about me. So I remember all of it. Every moment. It started on President’s Day. Well no, to be completely accurate, it started on Ash Wednesday. It began with a photograph”. Time is then wound to earlier in the year. Flashback.
Most of the cast enters to opening song taken place at Church, Fr. Mike (Jerold E. Solomon) at the pulpit. Cast continues with “Million Miles From Heaven”. Blackout. Lights go up to see Peter and Jason (Jason Hite) lying together in bed at Jason’s lake house. Jason is a “jock”. They are discussing Jason’s audition to play Romeo in the school play as well as a signal for them to be alone, “Can I borrow your math book?”
Let me get in some of the characters before I continue. We have Ivy (Elizabeth Judd), the slut…we’ll at least rumor has it from the school she had gotten transferred from…then there is Jason’s sister, Nadia (Barrett Wilbert Weed) and Madison (Sara Kapner) who believes the rumors. Needless to say, Jason gets the part of Romeo and is playing opposite Ivy. Matt (Gerard Canonico), who also auditioned for the part of Romeo, is in love with Ivy and now Jason, who doesn’t want to come out will need to prove himself of being “normal” by making it with Ivy. Get the picture?
Sister Joan (Missi Pyle), who was also transferred from another school, is hip to it all and just wants the students to lead a happy life. She is directing the play and believes that roles can be played by either gender, since there were only male actors back in the days of Shakespeare. Her father was a dj and mother a singer. Pyle gets to show off her voice and style in a most of the cast number called, “Don’t Tie Up The Request Line” which turns into a lounge act, her being “Mary”.
Some more to point out….Diane (Alice Lee) who is a bit naïve with some of the funniest lines, Zack (Casey Garvin), the challenging “jock” and Alan (Alex Wyse) a Jewish boy who transferred due to it being “the best school in the area”. He’s best lines were, “I’m not allowed to date girls who aren’t Jewish. Can’t choose you unless you’re Chosen. Sorry ladies. Choosy Jews choose Chosen Chicks.”
Enough of the plot as I don’t want to give away the rest. It’s time to congratulate those talented people who were responsible for Bare starting with the music. Damon Intrabartolo wrote the music and Jon Hartmere (who also wrote the book), composed this contemporary rock musical worthy of buying a CD. I’ve heard that one is not yet available. So sad. Stafford Arima directed this need to go to Broadway winner. Travis Wall gave us the choreography. Thank you Travis.
I have to say that the entire cast came together to pull off what I feel was the best musical for this season, especially since I love comedy as well. Okay, they threw in a token "Jew" but for comedy. The “baring one’s soul” plot came across with little clichés, plenty of comedy, as well as the important drama, great music, and a cast if harmonious voices. My only disappointment is that Bare is “Off-Broadway” and deserved an upgrade. I give Bare two thumbs up and a big toe! Don’t miss it!
See it at the New World Stages, 340 W. 50th Street (there are five stages at this venue).