I Hate Musicals – Review by Bonnie Goldberg


Who doesn’t love a musical, the snazzy songs, clever lyrics, dazzling dance numbers and popcorn buttered plot about love and loss? If you’re playwright Michael L. Reiss, you may have a slightly different slant on the subject. Let Reiss and Ivoryton Playhouse give you the laughable lowdown in the world premiere of “I Hate Musicals: The Musical” tromping across the boards until Sunday, October 15.

Come discover for yourself how the great psychiatrist Sigmund Freud and an earthquake that rocks Los Angeles channels to an epiphany of sorts for the protagonist Alvin, a television writer who has fallen down the rabbit hole from the apex of Tony-nominated talent to the nadir of negative success.

Alvin, played with pathos and pity-seeking warmth by Stephen Wallem, has known what being at the top of his game is like and how lousy being at the bottom of the pit feels like. He has run off to Hollywood to pitch his last, and hopefully his best, sitcom ideas to Diane, the Amazon woman who can crush his dreams or inflate his ego as her whims dictate.

The desperate Alvin is willing to compromise all his principles at the thumbs up signal from the powerful Diane, when the unthinkable happens: Los Angeles is the victim of an earthquake. At that momentous moment, Alvin suddenly finds clinging to life might be his top priority. He quickly calls his agent Lee, an accommodating R. Bruce Connelly, for help, big time.

In his dire straits, Alvin is soon visited by a series of delusions, apparitions, ghosts, figments of his imagination or casting call star wannabes, you be the judge and jury, from Freud (Sam Given), to Brie (Amanda Huxtable) his ex-wife, to the knowledgable professor (Ryan Knowles) to Jesus (Will Clark). They sing and dance delightful parodies from well-known musicals as they attempt to aid Alvin with his major problems. Can a man who hates musicals actually create a show that audiences will flock to see? Even if the title is “My Brother the Pope?”

Whether Alvin is getting advice from the Virgin Mary, the Angel of Death or Noah, whether he is singing Sondheim or channeling the likess of the rapper Lin-Manuel Miranda, Mike Reiss is having a great time in this mishmash of methodologies and musical styles, with original music composed by Walter Murphy, music direction and vocal arrangements by Michael Morris and snappy direction by James Valletti.

For tickets ($50, seniors $45, students $22, children $17 ), call the Ivoryton Playhouse, 103 MainStreet, Ivoryton at 860- 767-7318 or online at www.ivorytonplayhouse.org. Performances are Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., with matinees Wednesday and Sunday at 2 p.m.

Let Mike Reiss jet you to Hollywood to take a meeting that will dictate the course of Alvin Gorton’s career, future and fate. Are you ready for the rousing ride? Just hold on to your funny bones and you’ll be fine.