How to Quit Your Day Job! delivers a delightful dose of generation “Me.”
You’ve read the headlines. Millennials are the self-obsessed, self-medicating, selfie-taking self-seekers who might be overworked, sure, but also over-encouraged, over-indulged, and over-appreciated.
That said, don’t be too quick to pump your fist with a “hurrah” and wave your Gen-X credentials in my face. If you had an NES as a child, mourned Kurt Cobain as a teen, were young enough to enjoy N-Sync un-ironically, or were generally born between the early 1980’s and the early 2000’s, odds are you’re actually a millennial too.
As if! Right?
Millennials may be an under-appreciated generation, but take heart – they aren’t without their supporters. How to Quit Your Day Job! sings the song of the millennial and finally gives their plight a day in court.
The show is a musical comedy that tells the story of four friends living in DC, each trying to reconcile soul-crushing day jobs with an artist’s self-identity. The quartet includes TJ (Vaughn Midder), a writer-turned accountant; Izzy (Janani Ramachandran), the Broadway-hopeful-turned K-Street warrior; and Kate (Shannan E. Johnson), the, er, other Broadway-hopeful-turned nine-to-fiver.
The only exception to the rat racers is Manny (Olufemi Daaka), who lives the artist’s life of sleeping until noon, practicing his craft, and holding out hope that a big grant will come through and keep him from ending up homeless.
Thankfully, all is not lost – at least, not for the audience. How to Quit Your Day Job! serves up a 17-song catalogue of music to show the angst of our heroes as they long to live la vie bohemme.
How to Quite Your Day Job!
by Star Johnson
Directed by Star Johnson and Marquia Desiree Springer
Composer: Justin Paschalides
Choreography: Vanessa Terzaghi
Details and tickets
Janani Ramachandran stands out as Izzy in every company number, including “Group Therapy” and “You’re Not Special.” Meanwhile, the energetic “Trust Fund Baby,” sung by Shannan E. Johnson as Kate, gives her character some much-needed depth and is a bring-the-house-down moment for the show.
Vaughn Midder brings the funny as the adorably-awkward TJ, stealing many a scene, and offers a strong voice for the stage as well.
The oddball in the bunch is Manny, played by Olufemi Daaka. Mr. Daaka doesn’t have the voice of his co-stars, and early on I wondered what he brought to the show, but then we get to “Diamonds,” his solo number. Dude can rap, and the result is spot-on.
Unfortunately for our heroes, it isn’t all crescendos and spotlight moments. These people are seriously beaten down, trudging forward in their roles as accountants, middle managers, and other less-than-bohemian lifestyles.
TJ calls himself a writer, but is buried in blank pages. Izzy dreams of gracing the stage, but she’s too afraid to give it a go. Kate barely admits to her talent, too consumed with work and living a “good girl” life to look in the mirror.
Manny, meanwhile, represents the wonderfully free and terribly impoverished lifestyle that’s both alluring and terrifying for his friends.
Making a decent living while longing to be a starving artist is an angsty dilemma, I suppose.
Writer and lyricist Star Johnson isn’t afraid to say so from atop the fourth wall, either. In one particular scene, she even calls out DC Theater Scene for “killing her” in past Fringe Festival reviews, daring any reviewers in the audience to raise their hands (I did).
But what’s a Fringe Festival for, if not unappreciated art? The scene is always a mixed bag, with many a show falling into the category of “needs more work” or “not quite there”.
Sorry. As Kate reminds her friends, maybe they aren’t “making it” because they just aren’t that talented.
How to Quit Your Day Job!, however, dances on top of the heap. The show begs for a larger stage where the pitchy moments and minor flaws can be scrubbed away so it can really shine.
That’s both a compliment and a critique. The show is damn good, despite some strained moments.
Quieter piano-and-singer-solos harken back to middle school recitals, leaving any imperfection in pitch (however small) standing out. The cast deserves points for bravery on that one, but a bigger production would smooth that over.
The musical numbers are witty and highly original, but “You’re Gonna Be Ok” is an uncharacteristically timid closer that’s asking for a second look.
Then again, maybe that’s the point. Perhaps the generation that’s simultaneously been called the “Me me me generation” and “the next greatest generation” by Time Magazine (May 20 and May 9, respectively), have a right to be insecure. Maybe “ok” is the best we can hope for, at least for now.
Thankfully, How to Quit Your Day Job! is far better than just “ok.”
One final note to the house crew: When people arrive 20, 25, even 30 minutes late for a show, don’t let them in. Instead, kindly advise them that a beer is waiting for them at the Capital Fringe Festival tent, and that DC Theater Scene says How to Quit Your Day Job! is worth coming back for, on time, another evening.