BWW Review: An uncannily timed original show featuring a very bored accountant is MONOTONY: THE MUSICAL available on Podcast
Avid theatergoers who are sequestered at home may find themselves bored. Along comes an uncannily well-timed new show that bears the name Monotony: The Musical. Unlike some of the other theatrical streaming events popping up every day, this one will be released as a podcast on April 15th.
Sarah Luery wrote the book and lyrics for this show. While working in an office in 2008, she jotted down her frustration. "This monotony will be the death of me" is the opening line for the song "Death of Me." The setting is an accounting firm. Herbert Handler III (Alden Bettencourt) is experiencing "life in a cage." A brown bag lunch "provides an hour's solace at best." Herbert's deceased father wanted him to be an accountant and he listened. Ten years have passed and he's got "a diversified 401k and nothing to retire for."
The tone for this show is set early. There are plenty of office jokes and clever accounting terminology weaved into this original new musical. Phones and faxes are the "only thing that makes you know there's something outside." Herbert's best friend Marnee (Kelsey Ann Sutton) is the office manager who sings about making sure the staplers always stay packed. Her mother (Alixandree Antoine) chastises her with " you spend your entire day with men; no wonder you're out of sorts." Monotony begins in a vein of musical comedy-lite before plunging into a melodramatic forest (albeit with a crafty - some might even say campy - structural device for its storytelling).
Herbert works for Mr. McGiver, the firm's owner. He has a crush on the son of his boss, a comic book writer named Theo (Jon Gibson). It is easy to guess that father and son are at odds over this career choice. "The Son You Need" contains the line "you are an asset that I appreciate despite the cost." I have to admit I heard the influence of "You'll Be Back" from Hamilton in that melody. Remembering Jonathan Groff stopping the show as King George III brought a smile to my face. We all need that now.
There is even a number called "The Accountant's Dance." Since this is a podcast, you will have to choreograph that one in your head. Counting is involved such as "one foot in, one foot out." An even better idea is to watch the original "Turkey Lurkey Time" from Promises, Promises on You Tube to glimpse an office party gone wild, 1960's style.
Monotony has seven episodes which average twenty to twenty-five minutes long. After leaving the office in the first episode, the trials and tribulations of its appealing young characters take center stage. Herbert oversleeps one morning and sings "I'm Late" with brass accompaniment that recalls theme songs from old James Bond films. Many tunes become dirges such as "Woe is Me." If you listen closely, however, some lyrics are bone dry and quite funny such as "Here I am... barely existing at all / Like a 5:00 shadow or a urinal stall."
This musical continues headfirst into late twenties/early thirties angst. Career dissatisfaction. Divorce, both parents and children. Mom's new boyfriend who happens to be daughter's co-worker. Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwich adoration. A very sweetly rendered gay romance. Some ponderous philosophical musings including this proclamation: "I give myself permission to stop living for others."
What is very effective in Monotony is the use of an unusual narrator to add a documentary flare and some welcome humor. That part is well-voiced by Ted Macofsky who also doubles as the boss. Herbert's relationship with his dead father is nicely developed with some thoughtful emotional twists emerging from the overly heavy drama. There are stock characters populating this musical for sure. As played by Ahamed Weinberg, the smallish role of Bode somehow managed to make me laugh out loud despite the recognizable broad caricature.
Monotony is an old-fashioned musical targeted to a younger audience. When it tips into absurdity and surprises, the show is at its most interesting. Jared Chance Taylor's music is often pleasant but the accompanying vocals are, to be honest, very mixed in execution. While millions of us sit at home with a depressingly escalating virus all around us, a little Monotony might be just what the doctor ordered. Take a chance and see if you agree with the observations from my sheltered-in-place seat.
Monotony: The Musical will release its podcast on April 15, 2020 and a link can be found on its website at www.monotonythemusical.com.