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Review: THE EVOLUTION OF MANN at Broadway Rose

Review: THE EVOLUTION OF MANN at Broadway Rose

THE EVOLUTION OF MANN runs through October 16.

Since the return of live theatre, the biggest story on Broadway, and in theatres across the country, has been the vital contributions of understudies. Without these long-underappreciated cast members, many shows over the past year would not have gone on. That was the case opening weekend at Broadway Rose, when the musical's director Isaac Lamb stepped into the lead role of Henry Mann in Dan Elish and Douglas J. Cohen's rom-com THE EVOLUTION OF MANN.

It's not a small role - Henry is on stage for almost the entire ~100 minutes and sings at least part of all but one of the songs. Lamb had only a few days to rehearse and managed to not only remember all his lines but also infuse the role with the requisite bumbling charm. When I think about what it would take for me to step into one of my coworkers' roles for a day - and not just any day, but a day when I'd be subject to a performance review - well, let's just say I would consider it a success if I could muster 10% of Lamb's polish.

Lamb's wasn't the only great performance in this show, which is fortunate because the performances are hands-down the best part.

THE EVOLUTION OF MANN is about Henry Mann, a single thirty-something aspiring writer in New York who is looking for love, not because he's internally motivated to find a partner to share his life with, but because he receives a wedding invitation from Sheila, a former girlfriend. After attending 12 weddings in 12 months solo, he's determined not to go to this one alone. He finds himself with two choices - Tamar, a chic and gorgeous but emotionally unavailable PR exec; and Christine, a sweet, Southern schoolteacher who is also gorgeous and actually available, but has the fatal flaw of a unibrow (Srsly? What's so great about you, Henry?). There are no surprises here - you know who Henry chooses and how it all works out. As he rides the roller coaster of bad decisions, Henry gets advice from Gwen, his best friend who is living with him while she works out her own relationship issues.

All of Henry's love interests are played by Kailey Rhodes, who brings nuance, pizzazz, and humor to the roles far beyond what's in the script. She also gets the best song, "It's Only a First Date," a pining ballad that Christine writes after realizing Henry isn't actually going to call her again (It really wasn't a very good date - you can do better, Christine!). Gwen is played by Kortney Ballenger, who is new to the Broadway Rose stage. She has a lovely voice, good comic delivery, and a calming presence that helps counterbalance Henry's histrionics.

Though billed as a romantic comedy, THE EVOLUTION OF MANN is not particularly romantic - I wasn't rooting for Henry to find his "make me look good at Sheila's wedding" soulmate. It's also not particularly original - we've all seen the one where a bunch of women's lives revolve around a nothing-special guy. At its best, the show is funny and lighthearted, with lyrics that tread the fine line between clever and silly - I often experienced that combination of a groan and a chuckle typically reserved for dad jokes. But there's a lot that's cringeworthy, like the unibrow situation and a song about an unfortunate erection (Why tho?). Thank goodness for the excellent performances!

THE EVOLUTION OF MANN runs through October 16, with Ritchie Stone in the lead role. More details and tickets here.

Photo credit: Broadway Rose Theatre Company

From This Author - Krista Garver

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