It’s happened to us all: You enter a warm, dark room on a Sunday afternoon, take a seat, and before too long you’re being serenaded by a grown man lying in bed, singing songs about gay sex and romance while accompanied by a three-piece orchestra wearing pajamas.
If, by some fluke of fate, you’ve made it thus far in life without having said experience, you still can, thanks to The Obscure Little Musical Theatre Company’s production of Songs From an Unmade Bed, a delightful (same-sex) marriage between a one-man show and a Broadway revue.
The piece, performed for Fringe by Harv Lester, was originally produced by the New York Theatre Workshop in 2005, when lyricist Mark Campbell sent lyrics to 18 Broadway composers and asked each to create one song about love and lust, which were to be sung by one man, named, appropriately enough, The Man.
One need not be of the homosexual persuasion to enjoy Songs From an Unmade Bed; every installment—from the opener, in which the lonely narrator sings that dying in his bed would be redundant, to more nuanced tunes, like “He Never Did That Before,” in which our guy almost immediately transitions from a euphoric post-coital afterglow to suspicion over where, when, and with whom his partner learned a new sexual trick—is universal in its relatability.
Still, a few of the numbers will resonate on a different level with gay men living in a city like DC, especially “The Man in the Starched White Shirt,” an ode to a gentleman who, while impeccably dressed, successful, and good in bed, is also secretive about his sexual orientation for fear of not making partner—“his closet is so impressive, it must be hard to come out of it”—and who obviously yearns for someone dumb and 20 years old.
Songs from an Unmade Bed
Songbook by Mark Campbell
Composed by:\ Debra Barsha, Mark Bennett, Peter Foley, Jenny Giering, Peter Golub, Jake Heggie, Stephen Hoffman, Lance Horne, Gihieh Lee, Steven Lutvak, Steve Marzullo, Brendan Milburn, Chris Miller, Greg Pliska, Duncan Sheik, Kim D. Sherman, Jeffrey Stock and Joseph Thalken
at Fort Fringe – Bedroom
612 L Street NW
Washington, DC, 20001
Details and tickets
As with any revival, each subsequent performer puts his own spin on the material. Lester brings the songs to life admirably and has great vocal range. He also rolls with the punches well—when the strain of singing 18 different songs in a row started to show and he forgot a few lyrics, he made a joke of it and carried on, putting the audience at ease. Even when he had to exit for a moment to get some water, he took it in stride and never lost his energy.
The only times when one could sense any real strain was during the up-tempo numbers, during which, due to the cramped space, the kicky choreography became the theatrical version of car dancing.
Is Songs From an Unmade Bed the most groundbreaking or challenging work in existence? Not by a long shot. But it’s a genuinely fun and entertaining way to spend an hour in an intimate setting with a talented performer—and, in many ways, that’s the best outcome one can hope for during our brief, uneven, yearly tryst with the Fringe Festival.