BWW Reviews: Rocking Out with Bad Habits Productions' ROOMS: A ROCK ROMANCE
Musicals are exhausting. Add in an edgy rock score, filled with belted power ballads and guitar solos, and they are even harder. Now ask all that of two performers, expected to tell a complete story with only two characters and to keep up energy for a full production of music and emotion. That is a lot. Such is the case in Bad Habit's production of Rooms: a rock romance, which is currently performing at the Calderwood Pavillion at the Boston Center for the Arts. The show is a new musical that follows two Scottish performers as they join together in music and try to make a name for themselves, all while exploring the destructive and alluring romance between them. The entire piece is told through story telling and constant rock music, as these two trace their meeting, the development of their relationship, and how stardom affects their personal lives.
As soon as I arrived, knowing little more than the title of the piece and a description read online, I was ushered not to a seat in the theatre, but backstage, where a small area of chairs, a band, and lights were set up, right in the midst of all the technical elements and chaos of a normal backstage area. Walking into the space, with its abundant electrical equipment and edgy lighting, I immediately felt like a part of something. The show seemed set for a rock concert, but also suggested an intimacy not often found in that setting. Scenic and lighting designer Emily McCourt clearly gave thought to the mood she wanted to set, and I was so very ready for a rock and roll experience from the moment I entered the room.
The production starred actors, and real life partners, Ashley Korolewski and Michael Levesque as Monica and Ian, respectively; two very different people with very different ties to music. Vocally, they were phenomenal. Every note was pitch perfect and the energy never waned, even after more than an hour of straight belting. It seemed effortless. They were backed by an impressive band who simultaneously melted into the background, surrounding the audience with their beautiful music, and added a fun bonus personality, interacting with the characters here and there. My favorite song was "Friday Night Dress", which stayed in my head the whole night.
My one critique is that the description of the show did not exactly line up with what was presented, at least in my opinion. It is billed a piece that focuses on the couple's tumultuous relationship; however, I felt that aspect did not come into focus until the very end of the show. I believe it focused more primarily on the development of their careers, the different cities on which the characters' sights were set, and what show business brought out of them individually. And that was an incredibly interesting story; it just was not the one about which I had read prior. Perhaps the real life couple was anxious not to let their love and passion shine through too early, or perhaps the mismatched energies were a bit too extreme to suggest attraction right away (she had almost overwhelmingly high energy, while he was drastically subtle), but either way, I wasn't prepared for the show to turn to romance when it finally did. I enjoyed it once it got there, and I think the two make an adorable couple, but it initially caught me by surprise.
More than anything, I was impressed with the actors and director Daniel Morris's ability to tell a story using so little. Set wise, the actors used a single rolling crate, which was filled with various costume pieces and props. The audience saw the actors change costumes, saw the crate be rolled around the stage. There was no attempt to create an illusion of realism. And yet, it worked. I was transported to their world, but also felt like part of the creation of it all. It was an exciting show and had a soundtrack that I will be rocking out to for quite some time to come.
Directed by Daniel Morris; Music, Book, and Lyrics by Paul Scott Goodman; Arrangements and Orchestrations by Jesse Vargas; Assistant Direction and Costume Design by Liz Fenstermaker; Stage Management by Samantha Setayesh; Assistant Stage Managed by Joseph Fanning; Music Direction by Antanas Meilus; Set and Lighting Design by Emily McCourt; Sound Design by Andrew Duncan Will; Dialect Coaching by Crystal Lisbon; Sound Engineering by Myles McMann
Featuring Ashley Korolewski and Michael Levesque