From the start, Love, NY looks and sounds exactly like what you would expect a musical about love, sex, and chasing your dreams to be: catchy, up-tempo, and full of eager starry-eyed dreamers looking to make their way in the big city.
Then, of course, life and relationships and all sorts of mishaps get in the way, testing our protagonists and bringing them out stronger and hopefully wiser on the other side.
Not necessarily the most original plot in contemporary musical theater, but it clearly exists as something lighthearted and fun for a summer night. Despite having all of the requisite pieces, these elements unfortunately come together rather disjointedly as a full production, leaving the audience to ask: what is Love, NY about?
Fresh-out-of-college Benji, played with ample nerdish charm and wit by Robert Mueller, arrives in NYC to start his job at a marketing firm (cue Mad Men theme song) and make his mark on the world. His boss Daniel, Lou Steele, showing a solid dash of late-twenties angst, is happy enough with his career, but could be more fulfilled by a life of writing. Their paths through New York City intersect and mirror each other over the course of the musical, but they don’t learn much about themselves or their dreams by show’s end.
While these two actors have strong vocal talent and turned in some good performances, the rest of the cast and ensemble seemed overwhelmed by their first public performance and suffered some pitch problems in the larger group numbers.
by Robert Rokicki and Michael Ruby
at Mount Vernon United Methodist Church – Mountain
900 Massachusetts Ave NW
Washington, DC, 20001
Details and tickets
Though titled Love, NY and bookended with the songs “Hello, New York” and the titular “Love, New York,” there isn’t a whole lot in between to ground the characters in the physical and emotional reality of New York city.
That could be the result of its bare-bones set (a few black cubes and a bench), but co-composers and writers Robert Rokicki and Michael Ruby create their world mostly with songs and are pretty light on book scenes. The result? Songs that end up covering a lot of exposition and not allowing much room for character growth and development.
The city falls to the background, characters feel two-dimensional, and overall it makes the production feel much more like a song cycle than a fully-staged and produced musical.
Maybe it could have been a case of opening night jitters, but greater structural problems within the script and score seem to be what is dragging down this otherwise lighthearted musical. There are some truly fun numbers performed by talented actors, so I truly hope it can shake its disjointed pieces into place over the remainder of the Festival.