BWW Review: TINK! Soars Beyond Neverland
"OMG! Mom and Dad are being such phonies, so I'm going to run away and marry a pirate. Before you think about that too much, let me distract you with this show-stopping production number!" Actually "TINK!" wasn't as vacuous as all that, though - true to the exclamation point in its title - it did tend to deliver narrative details in bold plot points. Still, Tony Marino's barrel-of-laughs filled book, aided by Lena Gabrielle's tuneful score, with an assist from Greg Kerestan on lyrics ensured that "TINK!" stood out as one of the more delectable treats in this year's New York Musical Festival smörgåsbord.
Directed by Rachel Klein and Co-Choreographed with Danielle Marie Fusco, this adolescent romp through Neverland is a zany revisit to J.M. Barrie's "Peter Pan", only this time the focus is on the untold love story between the man who became Captain Hook and Tinker Bell. Who would have imagined that before Hook found his hook he simpered about as a conflicted dandy with love for a fairy? Therein lies the issue with this iteration of the story. Captain Hook - or James, as he is known before his unfortunate manicure session with the crocodile - is a plum character part; as James, he is reduced to a wan male ingénue afflicted with formulaic pouting syndrome. While Max Sheldon committed to the material and ably exuded boy-band appeal, the role was nothing more than a drip in the midst of a rowdy crew. Oh, but what a crew it is! This ensemble - a cast of triple threats who quadruple-up on roles - literally flipped across the stage while belting its heart out. As far as entertainment went, they had it in spades, but what's an audience to do with a lackluster lead like James?
Thank goodness then for Tinkerbell Copperblossom - that's Tink for short - the plucky pixie caught up in not-so-typical teenage growing pains. As played by the incredible Elly Noble - whose belt burst through the rafters even when she was in honest-to-God tears - Tink is an irascible teenager hell-bent on doing things her own way; even if that means running off with a pirate that she just met against her best friend's advice (the wonderful Shoba Narayan as Tiger Lily). Not that one could entirely fault Tink. After meeting the loveably daffy Copperblossom parents - they care more about getting on with the in-crowd than in nurturing their own needs - it becomes clear that striking out on her own might not be such a bad idea. Highbee, Tink's father who always backs down from a fight - the likeable Phillip Taratula - has been given a promotion by the fairy king. Unfortunately that means the family must move into the posh palace. Tink cries foul but simmers down in the face of her mother, Dona - a no-nonsense Lauren Elder - until she realizes that in order to hold onto the only true thing that she has ever known, she must run away. It's sophomoric teenager logic and it rings perfectly true; the tension between fear of change, growing pains, desire for adventure, and a need for stability were wonderfully illustrated during these passages.
When confronted by the resident mean girls of the palace, Tink could only watch apoplectic as her parents twisted themselves in knots to impress their tormentors. During one of the show's three mega production numbers, the royal family and retinue pulled out all stops to show that they "always eat with their pinkies up" even when jumping and twirling across the stage (hats off to Ms. Klein and Ms. Fusco for their acrobatic "Alice in Wonderland" like staging). Having had her fill of her parents' arrested development, Tink sprouted wings and flew away, came crashing down in a storm, was rescued by James, professed her love to him, and then met an amnesiac boy who just happened to fall out of the sky. His name was Peter; this was where"TINK!" kicked into high gear.
Suddenly it was clear that we have been waiting for this all along; the musical's raison d'être. Though perfectly enjoyable, up until this point things had been happening seemingly at random; with the off-the-charts chemistry between Ms. Noble and Kurt Hellerich's Peter Pan "TINK!" found its focus. In a rare feat for a musical, the second act became stronger as it raced towards its conclusion. Along the way Peter became leader of the Lost Boys, Tink discovered that James had ill intentions for her, and the Copperblossom family came to its senses just in time to affect a rescue. After defying James in his quest to collect her tears - they apparently grant a person the power of flight - Tink realized that one must be careful with her heart and that Peter is going to be the great love of her life. It was here that Ms. Noble shed honest tears as if to acknowledge as a character and actress that the show was finally over. I attended closing night of the musical's run at The Pearl Theatre; may it soon return to production.
The direction, choreography, and performances are what make "TINK!" a tremendous success. The sets and costumes are not much to write home about, but then with this cast and staging, "TINK!" could play in a parking lot and it would still prove a winner. The music is fun without being distinguished - more like a collection of novelty songs and heroic ballads - though it has at least two hits guaranteed to dominate the audition and competition circuit. And though the book's relentless focus on James proves a drag, it does have heart; that heart just happens to be misplaced until the close of Act I. Despite these flaws, "TINK!" is excellent entertainment for audience members of all ages, and a stronger show by far than much of what is currently playing on Broadway. Final words: bravo to Patch David's camp portrayal of "Smee". His love story with James was all sorts of ridiculous and curiously honest. Watching him is what kept the many James-centric scenes fresh.
For more information about "TINK!", visit tinkmusical.com