BWW Review: Mad Men Goes Musical With SOMEONE TO BELONG TO
If "Someone To Belong To," a musical about advertising copywriters in the 1960s, seems to be capitalizing on the popularity of "Mad Men," the story behind this Fringe show is actually far more interesting than that.
Last year, seven years after her father's death, Christine DeNoon discovered some 100 songs that her father David DeNoon had written over decades in his spare time. She enlisted Lorie Steele to help her write a musical around some dozen of those songs. The setting is Madison Avenue in the early 1960s because her father worked as an advertising copywriter at Grey Advertising and then Young and Rubicam during that time; he was best known for the Excedrin headache commercials, a series of quick and clever vignettes.
"Someone To Belong To" turns out to be a sweet, trifling romantic comedy, with pleasing songs that are generally more distinguished for their clever lyrics than their melodies. The story is a 75-minute labor of love about two pairs of lovers that, except for a few songs, seems only incidentally set in its time and place - although it could have been written back then. It is less cynical than "Mad Men" and less astutely observed.
Davis (Chris Ware) and Joe (Justin Colombo) are partners in an advertising firm. Davis does not want to admit he's fallen for office worker Annie (Sarah Stevens), who is engaged to Ted (Jonathan Desley), a farmer and cheese-maker (there are a lot of jokes about cheddar cheese) from upstate New York. (How did they meet?!) Joe is a lady's man who does not want to admit that he's fallen for Lois (Katherine Henly), who herself plays the field.
Although Davis works successfully in advertising, he really wants to be a novelist - as did David DeNoon. One of the jazziest songs in the show is "The Great American Would-Be Novelist" with such lyrics as:
Along about Chapter 2/Suddenly the rent came due
Instead of being occupied with love and life and death, from nine to five he's occupied with "Fight Bad Breath"
The 11 members of the cast are all fine professionals, with stand-outs including the hilarious Carla Nager as the secretary Miss Sasslebaum and the touching Erick Devine as Lois's father, a bartender named Peter, who does wonders with the ballad "Love Is A Trifling."
It is meant as no putdown of the rest of the production to note that its chief pleasure is Allison Plamondon's choreography (see video below for example)
"Someone To Belong To" will have three more performances through August 25 as part of the 17th annual New York International Fringe Festival.