I should probably disclaim this post: I sang in an a cappella group in college. This means that there is a special place in my heart for the musical genre. So, when I saw The A Cappella Party on the list of Fringe shows, I was downright thrilled. Any show that describes itself as an “all a cappella musical” has to go on my must see list. And when I sat down last night in the Warehouse Arts Main stage Theater, I was already excited.
The show is exactly what you would expect. It’s a modern day Romeo and Juliet, set between two rival a cappella groups at the University of Timbuktu. Tony and Julie (subtle, no?) are accepted into the “Timbuckones” and “An Achoired Taste” (I do love musical puns) and cracks quickly appear in their presumably perfect relationship. From the moment the show starts, we know how it will end. Clearly, inter-group harmony will be found once again. But predictability does not make the melody any less fun.
The strongest part of this show, by far, is the music. The lyrics are, perhaps, not always as witty as I would have liked, but the compositions are strong, thanks to the work of Sherry Benedek and Ben Lurye. And I loved the convention of the a cappella musical. The way that they devised to have the other actors in the scene sing backup (and well arranged backup, I might add) while still acting out the action was wonderfully cute. The singing was good, across the board, with a few standouts like Will Lockhart, Katie Friedgen (who also co-wrote the book with her sister Kristina) and Jenny Jin (when you could hear her, as there were some unfortunate mic problems). The music, overall, was the most innovative part of what was otherwise a fairly standard story.
The acting was not as strong as it could have been, but then again, I don’t think it’s why any of us where there. There were a few notably funny characters, with an especially enjoyable guy named Tib, played by Jamar Brown. There were definitely some genuinely funny moments. Ultimately though, I worry that the whole thing was one inside joke. I often felt like they were describing moments from my time in college, but I fear that if you hadn’t been in a college singing group in the last few years, the jokes might not resonate. And it wasn’t just the a cappella jokes (thought that was most if it). It also really spoke to people who have recently been to college. And so, I have created a rubric for how much you need to see this show:
|If you ever went to college, or had kids who went to college||You could see this show|
|If you graduated from college in the last five years||You should probably see this show|
|If you like a cappella music||You may want to see this show|
|If you are a self described “fogey” and you have not stomach for hook-ups, drinking games, or the word “slut-bag”||You want to skip this show|
|If you ever sang in a collegiate a cappella group||You pretty much have to see this show|
So, all in all, the show was fun. It may not have been much greater than the sum of its parts, but I enjoyed its parts, and that’s what counts. I should probably mention that I knew a few of the people in this performance, as well as the director. It turned out that a large portion of the creative team and cast were from the University of Maryland, my alma mater. It was great to see so many Terps up there, doing Maryland proud, and showing off our long tradition of a cappella excellence.
The A Cappella Party
Composed by Sherry Benedek and Ben Lurye, Book by Katie and Kristina Friedgen.
Directed by Kristina Friedgen, Music Direction by Ben Lurye and Sherry Benedek, Technical Direction by Bridget Woodbury
Produced by Parade Production
Reviewed by Josh Fixler (aka 20Something)
Josh writes a blog about inexpensive DC arts and culture: www.districtbeat.com. Check it out.