Review: Rachel Covey Does It All In ONE WRONG TURN: THE MUSIC OF RACHEL COVEY at 54 Below

New or not-so-new, Rachel Covey is one to watch.

By: May. 03, 2023
Review: Rachel Covey Does It All In ONE WRONG TURN: THE MUSIC OF RACHEL COVEY at 54 Below
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If you've read my previous reviews, you know how much I love original musicals. I think that young creatives who can fathom as-of-yet unexplored worlds, and characters with perspectives and life experiences that are different from their own, will save the world of theater from itself. As we see the mainstem continue to be inundated with revivals created by dead white men and adaptations of established brands designed to rake in cash, hand over fist, it is worthwhile - nay, it is our duty - to seek out these special young people who are still determined to alter this landscape with their fresh eyes. I love sharing these people with you, and currently have the pleasure of making another introduction. On April 21st at 54 Below at One Wrong Turn: The Music of Rachel Covey, another such artist shared a work with the world

No one could call Rachel Covey green. Her work has been performed internationally, and developed at big name venues across the country, including The Tank, the New York Musical Festival, the Library at The Public Theater, Tuacahn Theatre's New Works Festival, Emerging Artists Theatre's New Work Series, Common Ground Theatre Company, and The Chicago Dramatists Guild. She's been writing since high school, and, even at the age of 24, she has the unique hallmark of being able to write across ages and experiences, creating a delightfully broad range of characters and stories with populations that feel authentically grounded in the real world. In One Wrong Turn, for example, we met a researcher on ethically unstable ground, a father struggling with a GPS while driving his child to college for the first time, and a young woman lost in Paris. As the kids might put it: she has the range, darling.

With an all-star cast of performers including David Baida, Sarah Dacey Charles, Hannah Hakim, Claire Kwon, and Stefan Schallack, and supported by music director Jeremy Jacobs, director Jess Slaught and producer Vaibu Mohan, Rachel offered up pieces from different full-length works in progress and several standalone pieces, some of which were worked on with collaborators in different programs. The two full-length works in progress that we heard selections from both had delightfully original concepts which should have any producer salivating. Noise is the story of four lives intertwining as a researcher conducts a medical study on a college campus with disastrous effects. With highly intelligent story-driven lyrics and arrangements that had the audience enraptured, it's easy to see this being the next indie darling. On the other side of the new MT spectrum, Where We Are is a song cycle with each song inspired by a found map curated by the Hand Drawn Map Association. Blending quirk and endearing sincerity, every piece felt perfectly complete on its own, but when accompanied by an image of the corresponding map up on the monitor, it took on new layers where we could see both the humanness in the act of creating these maps and Rachel's gifted sense of exposition.

I could probably write a paragraph about each individual number, but in the spirit of Rachel's immaculate editing, I will edit myself down to the essentials. Rachel picked incredible performers that clearly understand the heart of her work. Claire Kwon, for example, had three solo opportunities with "Spontanée," and "One Wrong Turn," both from Where We Are, and "Cheeto," a collaboration with composer Erin Hoerchler. Confidently navigating swift transitions between broad comedy and quiet earnestness and radiating sheer joy throughout, Claire makes everything look easy. Being given songs (like "Cheeto," for example, where a young woman is using her small dog as an excuse for not inviting a date home) that are written by someone with as clear a sense of voice and musicality as Rachel, is an absolute blessing for any performer. "Cheeto" is definitely coming soon to a college showcase near you. "Bartholomew" and "Standing On The Edge" betrayed Sarah Dacey Charles' depth of experience, as her nuanced performances played beautifully with Rachel's ability to create characters with almost twice as much life experience as herself. David Baida, Stefan Schallack, and Hannah Hakim all produced beautifully multifaceted characters, feeling as much in line with the spirit of Rachel as Rachel herself.

Rachel Covey (or Rae, as she's known to her friends) is ready to go. She's done the workshops, she's won awards, she's edited, she's ready to take the next step. Though young, she will hold her own against any composer/lyricist working professionally today. Her music is exciting and you want nothing more than to hear what she does next. She's writing from a place of innovation and love; she's pushing forth an industry that always needs new creations and doing so because theater runs through her blood. Rachel is doing exactly what she is meant to be doing with her life.

Check out what Rachel is doing next HERE.

Get tickets to more shows at 54 Below HERE.


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