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A CurtainUp Review
Glory Days

Glory Days Takes a Giant Leap
From DC's Signature Theater to Broadway's Circle in the Square

The review below no sooner went up, than its closing was announced--after 22 previews and just one official performance!

You can't go around trying to please everyone.—Skip.
Cast of Glory Days
l-r: Jesse JP Johnson, Steven Booth, Andrew C. Call, Adam Halpin (Photo: Scott Suchman)

Imagine having a production in your home town leap right from the Beltway to the Great White Way! And when you're in your early twenties!

At a time when getting a show produced anywhere can involve workshop after workshop and a roundelay of having your hopes buoyed and bashed, James Gardiner (24) and Nick Blaemire (23) are a bit like the theatrical equivalent of the computer whizzes who started their enterprises in their family garages. While Glory Days, for which Gardiner wrote the book and Blaemire the songs, took less than six months to make the move from premiere production to Broadway, writing it began seven years ago. Like the four guys at the center of their show, Gardiner and Blaemire weren't their school's big jocks, but, clearly, they've made a touchdown of their own.

Of course getting a Broadway production with only a brief out of town run and without a history of proven hits is one thing. It's quite another challenge to generating enough enthusiasm with New York audiences to keep a big theater filled for as long a run, like its predecessar, another "little engine that could" musical (The Twenty-Fifth Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.)

Now that I've seen the show in its hoped for long-term new home, my guess is that it will have a tough struggle to find a large and steady audience— much as its characters have to struggle to deal with with their evolving lives and friendship as they transition from adolescence to adulthood.

Jim Kronzer's unit set —- a grassy floor and a few rows of bleachers backed by a grid consisting of bulbs to suggest a football field lit up for night games fits quite comfortably into its new home. The performers (all of whom, as well as the designers and director, were part of the DC production) are indeed appealingly energetic. The story they narrate and sing isn't exactly earthshaking but they do capture the sense of being in limbo that comes with being old enough to leave the painful insecurity of the high school years but still not quite ready to let go of the " glories" of youthful camaraderie that makes for tightly bonded foursomes like these.

Except for Passing Strange and In the Heights, Glory Days is also the season's rare new musical that isn't adapted from a movie (shades of the season biggies like Young Frankenstein, The Little Mermaid and Cry-Baby). Besides its likely association with Passing Strange, its promotional writeups also brings to mind the still running sleeper hits, Avenue Q and the aforementioned Putnam County Spelling Bee. The problem is that while neither Avenue Q or Spelling Bee involved huge casts, they were more generously populated with more interesting and rounded out characters and more subversively clever plots. There's also the audience appeal conundrum. Spelling Bee appealed to ages 9 to 90 and thus was one of those 4 or more ticket sellers. Avenue Q, while not for families with very young kids, reached a wide spectrum of adult audiences. The audience appeal of Glory Days seems to fall within a rather narrow age range.

Undoubtedly, the good reception and the enthusiasm of DC critics, especially the influential main critic at the Washington Post, went a long way towards attracting commercial producers with yes-we-can determination to turn this little show into the new big thing on Broadway. Rich See, our own man in DC was somewhat more moderate in his enthusiasm. Even though there may have been some tweaking of dialogue and lyrics since Rich reviewed the show, I could see no sign of any major changes to make this the more substantial and Broadway worthy show he thought it might become. The same songs are sung in the same order and, as already stated, the cast and creative team is unchanged. Since Rich has covered the plot, characters and music quite thoroughly, I'm reposting his review with its sum-up and evaluation of the plot, the characters and the music after the production notes in this box.

My own take on Glory Days falls a few notches below Rich's more benign one and so a few additional comments. Rich mentions dancing as part of the active staging. There IS plenty of movement and, being much older than these agile performers, I felt a twinge of envy watching the easy leaps up and down those bleachers. However these are athletic rather than choreographic moves, so don't mistake this for a dance show (there's no listing for a choreographer in the program).

As for the pop-rock music, Rich's comment that the songs have a very similar sound is all too true and he did indeed pick out the best numbers. It would have been nice to be able to hear songs and singers with more subtle amplification than head mikes. The assessment of the plot's weaknesses are right on the mark. The reference "hatchet face" of the girl Will is dating fails to rouse our sympathy for the boys having been outsiders in the dating game as well as on the football field. In addition there's a lyric with a tasteless ethnic line.

Given Rich's reservations about the show, and my own sense that Glory Days is going to have a hard time turning out to be a glorious super hit, his comment about its having "huge potential" seems overly kind and optimistic. But then maybe the numerous politicians who, despite scandals and bloopers, manage to have runs on Capitol Hill that make Phantom of the Opera look like a limited run, has made Washingtonians more optimistic and accepting than their fellow citizens elsewhere.

Glory Days
Music and lyrics by Nick Blaemire
Book by James Gardiner
Directed by Eric Schaeffer
Cast: Steven Booth (Will), Andrew C. Call (Andy), Adam Halpin (Skip), Jesse JP Johnson (Jack)
Set Design: Ji Kronzer
Costume Design: Sasha Ludwig-Siegel
Lighting Design: Mark Lanks
Sound Design: Peter Hylenski (Matt Rowe in DC)
Music Director: Ethan Popp
Vocal Arrangements: Nick Blaemire & Jesse Vargas
Music Supervision, Arrangements & Orchestrations: Jesse Vargas
Stage Manager: Gregg Kirsopp
Running Time: 1 hour and thirty minutes with no intermission
Circle in the Square Theater 235 W. 50 St. 212-239-6200
Post opening performance schedule:
Mondays at 8pm; Wednesday to Fridays at 8pm; Saturdays at 2 and 8pm; Sundays at 3 and 7pm
Tickets: $97.50; student rush, $26.50
Reviewed by Elyse Sommer based on 5/03/08 press performance

Musical Numbers

My Three Best Friends/Will
Are You Ready For Tonight?/All The Guys
We've Got Girls/Will And Andy
Right Here/All The Guys
Open Road/Jack
Things Are Different/Will and Andy
Generation Apathy/Skip
After All/Will
The Good Old Glory Type Days/All The Guys
The Thing About Andy/ Will And Jack
Forget About it/ Will, Andy, Skip, Jack
Other Human Beings/Jack And Andy
My Turn/Andy
Boys/ Will And Skip
My Next Story/Will

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Rich See's Review of Glory Day's premiere run in DC
our fathers are commuters, but we're stuck at our computers...
---Skip Thomas

Signature Theatre has unveiled Glory Day, a world premiere musical written by two DC area natives—- Nick Blaemire and James Gardiner. It's an energetic production with some great voices, several good songs and a huge amount of potential; unfortunately the plot line is weak for a musical being unveiled on Signature's mainstage.

The show covers the lives of four friends one year after graduating high school. They meet on their old school's football field at midnight one evening to reconnect after being away at college and to plan a practical joke on their former jock classmates at a charity football game the next afternoon. Will, the "the glue" that holds the guys together wants to douse the fellows who made their high school years miserable by resetting the fields sprinkler system. To do this he has begun dating a former classmate -- Horse Face Hanna. Skip is the activist who is more interested in social change and leaving their hometown than getting even, while Andy, the none-too-bright-one, has blossomed into a partying frat dude ready to make a good time at a moment's notice. Jack fills out the foursome as the quiet one who has had the greatest personal change over the past year.

It's at the fourth song, "Open Road," (one of the show's best) that Jack reveals he is gay. This revelation sets up the scene for turmoil and trauma as Andy is hurt that Jack lied to them all these years about his sexuality, while Will wants everyone to get along so that his practical joke can be carried off and Skip simply feels that they should hang out and talk about where they are now in their lives. As the story progresses, more anger is unleashed when Jack (in an unexplained move) makes a pass at Will who does not resist (also unexplained), then Andy insults Jack (the insightful "Other Human Beings"), after which it's revealed that Will broke a trust to Andy by telling Jack something that Andy had said about him. In the end, Will (now alone on the football field) realizes that he must move on, as his friends have done, and start a new chapter in his life (the finale "My Next Story").

Director Eric Schaeffer has pulled together a high energy production which flows along well considering there is no intermission. He's filled the stage with a great deal of action to keep you watching -- dancing, wrestling and flashing lights. And the show has several additional good numbers not already mentioned -- "Boys" and "Things Are Different." James Kronzer's stage is a simple green field with bleachers on it, while Mark Lanks' lighting is impressive in its blazing high voltage flashes at the ends of various songs.

The cast has several vocal standouts, which help bring individuality to some of the songs which have a very similar sound. Steven Booth's Will is a typical nerdy guy, while Andrew C. Call plays the stereotypical frat boy to perfection. Adam Halpin's Skip immediately comes across as the intellectual. And Jesse JP Johnson's Jack only really comes alive when singing his song and during the fight scene with Andy. (Which is not Mr. Johnson's fault, but simply how the script reads.) However, each time he sings he captures your attention.

Glory Days holds an interesting idea to journey into the hearts and minds of four young men about to enter the world. In its present produced form, it has a few weak points, but it shows a huge amount of potential for its two young playwrights (both of whom are twenty-three years old). If you would like to see a show in its infancy, then this is the time to head out to Arlington and check out what might become the next big thing in New York City.

Reviewed by Rich see on January 1, 2008, at the Signature Theatre, 4200 Campbell Avenue, Arlington VA where it ran through 2/17/08

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The Little Mermaid
Lion King
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Leonard Maltin's Classic Movie Guide
Leonard Maltin's 2008 Movie Guide

Playbill 2007-08 Yearbook


©Copyright 2008, Elyse Sommer.
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