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Review Roundup: BARE Opens Off-Broadway

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The new incarnation of the rock musical Bare opened Off-Broadway at New World Stages on Sunday, December 9, 2012. Featuring music by Damon Intrabartolo and book & lyrics by Jon Hartmere, Bare is directed by Olivier Award nominee Stafford Arima (Carrie, Altar Boyz) and choreographed by Emmy Award nominee Travis Wall ("So You Think You Can Dance"). Additional music is by Hartmere and Lynne Shankel (Altar Boyz, Cry-Baby, Company). Music supervision and arrangements are also by Lynne Shankel.

The company features Jason Hite (Jason), Taylor Trensch (Peter) and Elizabeth Judd (Ivy), with Gerard Canonico (Matt), Jerold E. Solomon (Father Mike), Barrett Wilbert Weed (Nadia) and Missi Pyle (Sister Joan). They are joined by Anthony Festa (Swing), Casey Garvin (Zack), Ariana Groover (Vanessa), Sara Kapner (Madison), Alice Lee (Diane), Megan Lewis (Swing), Justin Gregory Lopez (Beto), Michael Tacconi (Nick) and Alex Wyse (Alan).

Bare is an exhilarating new rock musical that follows a group of teens trying to navigate the tightrope to adulthood over the minefield of high school. Along with their teachers, they will wrestle with issues of identity, sexuality, religion and love.

Let's see what the critics had to say...

David Rooney, The New York TimesLike the "Carrie" redux before it, the new "Bare" seems a bland attempt to reboard the emotional roller coaster of adolescent ecstasy and agony that was the musical "Spring Awakening." Travis Wall's somewhat random gesture-based choreography only makes that comparison more obvious.

Joe Dziemianowicz, New York Daily News: Regrettably, "Bare" sags from the same overly familiar and narrow focus that worked against it in a developmental version I'd seen in 2004. It seems more than ever stuck in a time warp. The kids on stage may carry iPhones, but the psychology seems rooted in another decade, definitely one pre-"Glee"...Despite predictable turns and characters...there are funny lines. Some of the songs are surprisingly big-hearted and affecting. Movement by Travis Wall ("So You Think You Can Dance?") adds flow and energy. Director Stafford Arima, who covered another chapter of adolescent behavior in the short-lived musical "Carrie," has assembled a talented cast that is uniformly strong. Barrett Wilbert Weed, as Jason's druggy goth sister, stands out with her honeyed vocals. And Missi Pyle brings down the house as the Virgin Mary in a glittery nightclub act. Pyle steals the show. If that's a sin, amen to that.

Tanner Stransky, Entertainment WeeklyThere are good things about the show, though. The ever-sharp Missi Pyle (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) plays a smart, understanding nun and delivers handily during a hilarious scene where she also channels the Virgin Mary as a nightclub performer. Elizabeth Judd and Barrett Wilbert Weed are standouts in a show in which the boys get the more central roles. And while simplistic at times, the pop-rock score by Damon Intrabartolo (with additional songs by Lynne Shankel and lyricist Jon Hartmere) is mostly inspired. B–

Matt Windman, AM New York: I saw the original production of "Bare," which featured an unforgettable performance by Michael Arden, several times...Eight years later, "Bare" has finally opened Off-Broadway...But this is not the same show. Now titled just "Bare," it has been extensively revised and updated under the sanitizing direction of Stafford Arima...Much of Jon Hartmere and Damon Intrabartolo's original score has been replaced with inferior new material by Hartmere and Lynne Shankel. The few remaining original songs have been altered beyond recognition...With the exception of Alex Wyse, the young cast is mostly devoid of personality. In the lead role of Peter, Taylor Trensch can't even handle the show's vocal demands. At least Missi Pyle and Jerold E. Solomon display depth as the resident priest and nun.

Frank Scheck, New York Post: The show, clunkily staged by Stafford Arima (who has some experience with this sort of material thanks to last season's revival of the similarly themed musical "Carrie"), is fun for a while, but soon gives way to wearisome melodrama. The derivative, unmemorable pop-rock score and generic music video-style choreography don't help matters. The mostly youthful ensemble deliver energetic, committed performances...And Pyle is terrific as the free-spirited nun. But the actors are unable to overcome their stereotypical roles. In the end, the show's title reflects not so much its troubled characters baring their souls as the material's essential hollowness.

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