Dust to Dust, presented by the Class Act Players, follows mid-western farmer’s son Toby (Preston Kemp) on his journey from his Depression-ravaged family farm to New York City, where he hopes to collect a long-outstanding financial debt that an upper class socialite, Gabriel Rosen (Sarah Marksteiner), owes his blind father (Alex Bulova.) He is helped along the way by a scrappy newspaper boy named Ralph (Rachel Ingle).
When Toby arrives in the Big Apple, he is quickly drawn into the complicated life of Scarlett Rosen (Andrea Matten), a successful jazz singer with a string of dead fiancées, an overprotective business manager (Rob Condas), and a heart of gold.
Let it be said, here at the beginning of this review, that the Class Act Players are all (very) recent high school graduates. The musical was written, directed and performed by these young artists. Because they have bravely thrust themselves into the world of Fringe, I will not patronize them by treating their show as any less worthy of review than the other shows I have seen and will see.
Dust to Dust is in major need of the assistance of a dramaturg or, indeed, a professional playwright; its 1930s setting is rife with historical inaccuracies, the plot is poorly paced, the climactic confrontation between Toby and Scarlett’s manager Damian is cartoonish, and I was unsure, in the end, if the two main characters had fallen in love.
The music, however, is the bright spot. Although some songs feel like standard musical-theatre filler, there are several numbers that provide a strong footing for the show. “Pray for Rain”, sung by Toby, along with his father and mother, provides a strong start, and “Take Me Now,” sung by Toby and Scarlett, indicates nicely the disparate starting points of the two main characters. The song “Blessed Are Those” is reprised throughout the show, but is most effective when led by the lovely, powerful voice of Brionna Simmons. The best song, and the one true highlight of this production, is the song “Paper Flowers.” Its style and content are utterly wrong for the context in which it is placed (a high society 1930s New York Club,) but it is catchy and poignant, with echoes of Taylor Swift-style songwriter pop, and Andrea Matten performs it beautifully.
Dust to Dust
Written and directed by Sarah Marsteiner
Composers: Andrea Matten and Chris Mayhew
Songbook: Andrea Matten, Chris Mayhew and Sarah Marksteiner
Details and tickets
The cast, over all, displays the kind of raw, untrained talent that would make any one of them a fine addition to a freshman class of drama majors. However, when compared with the level of dedication and professionalism that is so wonderfully common at Fringe, Dust to Dust feels very much what it is: a high school musical. Had I seen this production in a High School auditorium, I would have perhaps felt differently, but, at Fringe, with ticket prices ever rising and a full slate of diverse, interesting, professional shows, the Class Act Players were, perhaps, out of their league.
In conclusion, it was a lovely effort, and I sincerely hope that these young artists continue to write (and revise!), make art, and pursue their dream; I just would have enjoyed the show much more, I assume, had I been watching my own 17-year-old brother rather than somebody else’s.