BWW Reviews: CREATIVE LICENSE: A NEW MUSICAL
Creative License: A New Musical
Book and Lyrics by Kevin Cirone, Music by Kevin Cirone and Spencer Elliott, Additional Music by Dan Rodriguez, Directed by Kevin Cirone, Music Directed by Dan Rodriguez, Choreography by Rachel Bertone; Lighting Design/Engineering, P.J. Strachman; Sound Design/Engineering, Alex Savitzky; Set Concept, Kevin Cirone; Set Construction, Rob Smith; Costumes Provided by Joey DeMita, Dan Sullivan, Kevin Cirone, and the Cast; Stage Manager, Becca Freifeld
CAST: Michael Levesque, Sarah Leary, Kevin Groppe, Ross Brown, Ashley Levesque, Varsha Raghavan, David Lucey
Performances through August 2 at Davis Square Theater, 255 Elm Street, Somerville, MA; Tickets at creativelicensemusical.wordpress.com
There's a little more than the usual excitement in the air around Davis Square in Somerville this week as a new rock musical is having its world premiere in the subterranean Davis Square Theater. The intimate space where beloved local comedian Jimmy Tingle used to hold court has been reborn as Denison's, a suburban Boston Irish pub, which is the setting for Creative License - A New Musical, writer/director Kevin Cirone's labor of love. Featuring about a dozen original songs with music by Cirone, Spencer Elliot, and Music Director Dan Rodriguez, the story centers on the struggles of a would-be playwright with writer's block, his complicated love life, and his plan to alleviate the financial woes of the family business.
According to a note from the director in the program, Cirone has been toiling for two years to bring this show to life, with assistance from many talented actors and musicians. The cast members are a cohesive ensemble and are well-suited to their roles, but the character development in the script is uneven. As the lead player, Michael Levesque holds our focus and delivers his vocals with vigor, but he is saddled with Casey's low self-esteem and consistent "poor me" attitude that ought to evolve as he moves toward achieving his goals. He shares a ready camaraderie with Ross Brown as Jason, the proprietor of the pub, but it is not made clear until late in the first act that the two are brothers. I'd like to see his character developed more, but Brown makes Jason interesting anyway with his wry recital, some well-placed facial expressions, and a nice duet with Levesque ("Irish Eyes").
Two of the three female characters are more strongly defined and change as the story progresses. At the start, Ashley Levesque (Lilian) is introduced as Casey's shallow girlfriend who unceremoniously dumps him after lovemaking. She reappears in the second act with a steamy audition song ("Give Your Love to Me") and hangs around as a device to create conflict for Casey and Bethany (Sarah Leary), his real love. Lilian's role is small, but Levesque finds nuance in the character and makes an impact. Leary traverses the broadest arc, from frosty ex-girlfriend to feisty supporter, and has a voice that impresses in both belt and ballad mode. Varsha Raghavan (Candace) and David Lucey (Perp) are likable as two of the pub employees, but their purpose is limited and their flirtation provides little more than comic relief. Kevin Groppe takes the prize for quirky character as the eccentric, absent-minded professor who offers his "new" play for Casey to produce in order to save the pub from foreclosure. When Dr. Hardy's work turns out not to be what it seems, the happy ending is seriously jeopardized.
Among the successes in Creative License are good musical variety, a bevy of eager and committed performers who portray characters we can care about, and a promising story viewed through the lens of the importance of friends and family. Dan Rodriguez conducts and plays keyboard in the four-person orchestra (Tom Young, guitar; Russell Chandler, bass; Colin Flemming, drums), and Rachel Bertone fits some fun choreography into limited space. As for the down side, although the performers are wearing head microphones, some of the dialogue is difficult to discern, especially in scenes when the music plays under (or over, as it were) the conversations. My companion and I both missed the gist of an entire discussion early on between Candace and Bethany that took place stage left (we were seated center right), leaving us scratching our heads about what had transpired. As written, one wonders why Casey is such a chick magnet, why Bethany changes her tune so suddenly, and why Jason is unattached. If the characters can be fleshed out into more multi-dimensional personalities, the relationships will become more credible.
The world premiere of Creative License continues with four remaining performances (July 31, August 1 and August 2 at 7 pm, and August 2 at 2 pm). There aren't many opportunities to be present at the birth of a new musical, so it is worth your while to go down under in Somerville and check it out.
Photo credit: Kevin Cirone (Ashley Levesque, Kevin Groppe, Ross Brown, Michael Levesque, Sarah Leary, Varsha Raghavan, David Lucey)