BWW Review: New York Fringe Show: BRADLEY COLE Tells Tall Tale of Fame on Twitter
Bradley Cole has one million followers on Twitter. He lives in a penthouse, and hangs out with Anderson Cooper. He doesn't really exist.
He is the invention of Ian, the main character in "Bradley Cole," a lively 80-minute musical at the New York International Fringe Festival with 16 tuneful songs, an energetic cast, and a plot that applies the gloss of the Twitter-topical to what feels like a mash-up of every predictable show known to mankind: a romantic comedy, a coming-out story, a workplace comeuppance, a spoof of TV, a morality tale about the downside of fame, Cyrano de Bergerac, Paula Deen's Home Cooking.
Ian (standout Remy Germinario) works in the library, but spends much of his time at home blogging and Tweeting wearing a pajama bottom and a nerdy T-shirt. His Twitter activities bore his roommate Ben (Justin Flexen), Ian's best friend since grade school and (unknown to Ben) the object of Ian's affection. Ben, an aspiring actor, has just gotten a job as the "cupcake boy" on a cooking show starring the overbearing Della Rae (L. Celeste Weathers), where Ben meets Della Rae's long-suffering assistant Stacey (Jeannine Frumess). He's drawn to her; she's not drawn to him. Stacey is a fan of "Bradley Cole," though, so Ben discovers a new-found interest in his roommate Ian's preoccupation...and a reason to lie: Ben tells Stacey that he is Bradley Cole, and convinces Ian to Tweet something to prove it. Ian's single Tweet - about how Della Rae mistreats Stacey - changes lives, turns the world upside down and drives the rest of the musical's unlikely plot.
"Bradley Cole" is best-appreciated for its songs by lyricist Jason Young (who also wrote the book) and composer Bomi Lee, starting with the opening number, "Listen to Me, Look at Me, Love Me," performed by the talented eight-member cast with cell phones opened in their hands. The frame around the songs can't bear the weight of scrutiny; there are no real insights into this new variation on fame, e.g.: "Fame is like toilet paper," Ian says at one point. "For a while you're on a roll, but it's not long before you find yourself in the toilet again." And its putdown of social media is too easy.
As an overly obsessive Tweeter myself at @NewYorkTheater, I know that to have a million followers on Twitter -- a million! -- requires that you either already have celebrity in another medium (on TV or movies or the concert stage, most commonly), or that you offer something of demonstrable value - great wit or a steady stream of useful or intriguing information. I understand that "Bradley Cole" employs exaggeration for comic effect, but by making Ian such a stereotypical nebbish, the show (whose Twitter feed, @BColeMusical, at the moment has 54 followers) underestimates what it takes to make it on social media.