BWW Review: ONE HIT WONDER at Landmark Community Theatre
With a title like "One Hit Wonder," you might think you know what to expect: a series of well-known one hit wonders strung together with a loose story that feels more like a musical revue than a musical, but my experience seeing Landmark Community Theatre's production of One Hit Wonder, book by James Desmon and arrangements by Jesse Vargas, flipped those expectations on their head and left this reviewer bopping in his seat to songs he hasn't heard since he was a child. Walking into the theater, I heard the nostalgic chords of Big Country's "In a Big Country" echoing through the speakers accompanying a bare stage with a single projection showing the show's logo and I flipped through the program to take a look at the types of songs I will be treated to, including songs like "Closing Time," "You Only Get What You Give," and "Take On Me." Already this show was giving off a Rock of Ages vibe. As the show began, Rick, played by Joe Berthiaume, burst onto the stage and the company formed a small pit at the edge of the stage. Very quickly, the rock and glam of a successful rock star faded away as the curtain opened and reveals a bar with a single patron and Gunner, played by Steffon Sampson, on bass as the pair uncertainly finishes up the song to an empty bar. Over the course of the performance, I was pleasantly surprised by the depth of the characters and the story and began to realize that what I expected to be a shallow collection of pop culture rarities was really a well-crafted story with strong production quality to back it up.
Bringing a rock star story to the modern day gives the cast and crew the opportunity to explore the use of social media in today's pop culture in the form of the character Mercy Faith, poppishly portrayed by Kristi Yurko. By using projections compiled by director, Kate Luurtsema, to put Yurko's relatable social media bursts on blast, the audience was able to get to know the character and the chaotic role she would play in the rock band's life before she even stepped on stage. The projections were also used to solidify which city the band was in when all of the concert venues look the same.
The true stars of the musical were the performers themselves. Berthiaume and Sampson's laid back, goofy personas were well balanced with Yurko's Instagram personality, and Stewart's (Joe Guttadauro) and Fiona's (Cheyenne Walent) professional appearances were linked to the rock and pop stars with the between-two-worlds talent of Ashley, played by Ashley McLeod. All of these actors were keenly aware of their personal character's growth over the course of the story and found their moments to bring out the best and worst in themselves to show the dichotomy of the before and after. Rick struggled and pulled the audience to root for him, Gunner and Mercy Faith were polar opposites and that conflict shone during "(I Hate) Everything About You," Ashley's transformation from professional to rock star felt freeing and liberating, Stewart's innocent, perfect boyfriend persona tugged the audience's heartstrings, and Fiona's confidence flustering in the face of the new force in her life was hilarious and relatable as she learned to accept her emotions rather than relying purely on the logic.
While the performance was not perfect- a few spots where an actor left their light, Berthiaume's tendency to look down at the floor rather than up at the audience, and some wonky timing between projections, the band, and lights- it was a thrill: the audience was dancing and singing along in their seats and having an all-around wonderful time. You have one more weekend to catch Landmark Community Theatre's production of One Hit Wonder on Feb 14th, 15th at 8pm and Feb 16th at 2pm at the Thomaston Opera House in Thomaston.