BWW Review: MIDDLE8 at The Stella Adler Theatre

BWW Review: MIDDLE8 at The Stella Adler Theatre

Often when I think of an original musical, I harken back to my college years where the music majors would crank out a script one week prior to when the final project was due for the musical theatre class. The ending product, being filled with one-dimensional characters, unison singing throughout, borrowed "costumes", basic lighting (if any) and a plot that makes no sense. As basic as it was, everyone received an "A" for their effort.

I wasn't necessarily expecting that when I walked into the Stella Adler, but I wasn't expecting greatness (especially after recently experiencing an original play with music at the Mark Taper, THAT was great).

Wow, was I wrong! Greatness is what I got!

Middle8 is billed as a story of '...the greatest rock band you've never heard of...'. But it's so much more than that.

Middle8 is a piece of theatre that rivals that of the Mark Taper. It is a universal story of friendship, family, love and loss, and the music that brings us all together.

On the night this reviewer attended, not only was the house full, but the audience, itself, was diverse in age so much so that we all got something different out of the experience.

Led by a truly gifted ensemble of performers who put their souls on the line to tell this story every single performance, this story revolves around 5 childhood friends (and the women who loved them) who have formed a band. The band members plan to gather together (after years of separation) for the 40th birthday of founding band member Adam (played with incredible heart by Matt Kaminsky). Moment by moment, minute by minute, month by month, year by year, the layers are peeled away from this proverbial friendship-onion and we get a glimpse into the lives of these five men (and the women who loved them) through song, scenes, and monologues that explain how they all arrived at where they are in life, where they went, who they loved, and how they left this world.

As director, author, lyricist, and actor (Stefan Marks) stated in his Director's Notes, "This is a super collaborative effort". And it truly shows. Whether it be Marks' staging, Mark Svastics' simple but very effective light design, the stellar scene work at the climax of the show between Adam (Kaminsky) and Lee (the multifaceted Ken Weiler), or the playfulness of the beginning of the show with the entire cast, Marks has written a superlative piece of theatre that has a voice so many of its audience members will hear and identify with (no matter what age). As an actor, Marks plays Chris with dry sarcasm. A male Joanne from "Company" if you will. But on a dime, he can turn and have the audience in silent awe from a personally emotional revelation.

To round out the ensemble is Killian (Geoff Dunbar), who's death scene is one of the most creative I have seen since that of a recent well-choreographed dance piece...but with percussions; Bobby, played sweet and simply by Brett Pearsons; Cassidy, Adam's wife, played by Brittany Joyner who brings such human emotion to her role and is a cavalcade of talent; and Jules Dameron's, Defloria. An amazing character played by an amazing actress. The scenes between her and Pearsons are one of the most simple yet effective this reviewer has seen in a long time.

Kudos, as well, to Stephen Epstein's clever Video, Cheeky at times yet appropriate costuming by Paula Higgins, set by Svatics and Marks, Musical Direction by Kaminsky (bravo on the 5 part harmonies) and of course...lest we mention that as this is a story about a band, all members play LIVE: Weiler (electric guitar), Kaminsky (keyboard), Marks (acoustic guitar), Pearsons (electric bass, mandolin), Dunbar (drums).

Go see and support this tour de force of a play with music. I wouldn't be surprised if we saw it moving to a larger theatre within the very near future. It deserves to be seen.

Middle8 runs through December 15th at the Stella Adler Theatre, 6773 Hollywood Blvd (2nd Floor). Tickets are $25 and can be purchased at

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From This Author Jeffrey Scott

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