ADVERTISING AT CURTAINUP
BOOKS and CDs
LETTERS TO EDITOR
A CurtainUp Review
By Elyse Sommer
Much as we all yearn for fresh theatrical experiences, this may sound like an idea that's just too oddball to succeed. But then so was Davy Rothbart's idea for a magazine about the flotsam and jetsam he began collecting when a note meant for someone else landed on his car's windshield.
That was fourteen years ago. Found Magazine is still being published and has seeded a number of best-selling books and other enterprises for Rothbart. He may not be a Silicon Valley billionaire with household name recognition, but his days of delivering pizzas are far behind him.
The musical version of Found is a logical new chapter in this unusual success story. Though given a deluxe staging and bursting with backstage and on stage talent, the show is in keeping with its very individualistic origins by not relying on the ticket selling draw of big names on the marquee.
Even if Rodgers and Hammerstein were still with us, producers wouldn't be likely to ask them to musicalize Davy Rothbart's story. Instead they've wisely sought out a creative team with a feel for today's millenials who like to rock and shake along with pop-rock singing and dancing, rather than the hummer-loving traditionalist. Hunter Bell made his name with a cheeky little show about putting on a show called title of show . Lee Overtree, the co-author and director as well as composer-lyricist Eli Bolin have been involved with Story Pirates, a young educational organization credited in the program as co-collaborators.
For all its vive-la-difference funkiness, however, Found has a much done plot, actually a dual plot: Young man with a go nowhere work and romantic life, lucks out on both counts, almost loses both to the temptation of another love and Hollywood, only to come to his senses for an all's well that ends well ending.
The book uses the real Davy Rothbart's story as its foundation stone. It begins, with the note inadvertently landing on the windshield of Davy's car — and landing there just when he's having a bad day, which prompts the first of almost 30 tunes, "Weird Song."
With his ordinary guy charm, Nick Blaemire is ideally cast as the show's Davy. Barrett Wilbert Weed is on the mark as Denise, the roommate (and yes,girlfriend) who helps him achieve the dream summed up in the show's best song "Something That I Love" ("I want to do something that I love/ and do it with people that I Love"). Another endearingly performed pivotal character in the dream found and almost lost saga, is another roommate and friend Daniel Everidge as Mikey D.
Betsy Morgan's Kate is the ambitious other woman who as per "Killin'It" declares herself willing to "kiss the ring that signs the checks." But though she almost sends the dream and the Denise/Davy romance crashing she's hardly a villainess. You see, this is a feel good, upbeat musical.
The rest of the ensemble bringing the found notes that dominate David Korin's scenic design are also outstanding. As scripted by Bell and Overtree, and portrayed by the versatile ensemble, all are more intent on being weirdly and wickedly funny rather than wicked. The closest thing to villainy comes from the Hollywood team in charge of a show based on Found who seem bent on removing the wacky but appealing weirdness from its content).
Korin's encircling wall of found notes opens up for the actors to enter and exit. That wall is also cleverly animated with projections by Darrel Maloney. These range from notes that pop out to more complex, evocatively lit by Justin Townsend, visual accompaniments to production numbers like the first act's rather overcooked "Johnny Tremaine" finale.
The breezy direction and the ensemble's energetic navigation through multiple roles keeps things moving along, and Theresa Squire's costumes add to the visual pleasures. But not everything works.
Positioning the six musicians in individual orchestra pits right on stage is a nifty idea. However, being so close to the singers often unfortunately often drowns out the lyrics which are the best part of the tuneful but ordinary hip-hop infused score. The choreography by Monica Bill Barnes is consistently lively but excessively busy and repetitious, with too much of a gym class flavor. Ultimately, the notes that seeded this show and the plot built around them aren't quite substantial enough to sustain a two and a half hour show.
My criticisms notwithstanding, Found is sure to hit home with the young audience for whom it's intended. It's a peppy, weirdly wonderful take on the theme of friendship, loyalty and sticking to one's dreams.