BWW Review: GLORY DAYS at Rise Above Performing Arts Takes You Back to the Good Ol' Days
In 2008, I was one of the few who was privileged enough to see "Glory Days" open (and close) on Broadway. So, when I saw that the show was in our area I made it a priority to attend. My anticipation for what I had hoped to witness did not go unfilled as Rise Above Performing Arts delivered a passionate rendition of this much maligned musical.
"Glory Days," with music and lyrics by Nick Blaemire and Book by James Gardiner, explores the story of four best friends who have reunited for an evening of fun and mischief after their first year away from college. The entire storyline takes place over one evening and examines the bonds of true friendship and how those connections are challenged by the choices and experiences each one of the characters has made during their year apart.
Having seen Rise Above productions before, I have become accustomed to certain expectations when seeing their shows. This performance however had a different feel as it was a cast of four and very intimate. Every show I have experienced from this company previously has been sold out. However, on opening night the audience was not even half full. It made me reflect back to the fact that this show lasted one day on Broadway. While I guess "Glory Days" wasn't made to be a smashing success and the crowd was scarce, that did not stop these four young men from delivering amazing performances.
Director KEVIN Ray Johnson, brought forth a clear vision to his audience. His understanding of the show and his ability to translate that to the stage, especially to someone who understands what "Glory Days" is all about, is to be commended. It was like I was watching the same four young men from back in 2008 which is the biggest compliment I can give. The language in the show is crass and may give some audience members pause as to whether the content is too mature for even the actors themselves. However, they each do a magnificent job of using the language as part of their characters. With that said, this is not a show for younger children.
While all four young men delivered outstanding performances, Ryan Modjeski (Will) and Addison Ruscoe (Skip) had me in awe both at their knowledge of their characters as well as their vast vocal ranges. The music in this show is very complex and the fact that they found four boys who could sing the roles, let alone do it with the quality and precision as Modjeski and Ruscoe did was simply amazing.
Modjeski who plays Will and essentially narrates the show delivered a perfect blend of innocence and charisma. From the opening song "My Three Best Friends" he draws you into the story that unfolds. He carefully navigates the complexity of a score that would leave most of us challenged or hopeless. His attention to detail and connection to his three friends lays the foundation for the entire show. Modjeski was strong throughout and his ability to blend and harmonize with Ruscoe provided the audience with moments of true excellence under the tutelage of music director, Joi Chapman. Their duet, "Boys" made you want to cheer at the top of your lungs at the most intimate moment. This duo was truly something special to watch.
Ruscoe, who plays the cynical character Skip, was nothing short of outstanding. His connection to the audience in "Generation Apathy" gave me chills. Even more than that, his clarity and strong vocal range is evident throughout the show. His aptitude for music and ability to blend with whomever he was singing is a rare thing in a performer so young. His development of his character also did not disappoint. He was not afraid to make choices and each time he did so with a passion that took the musical to another level. As both Modjeski and Ruscoe continue to grow as performers, I hope the varied levels they display in their emotions continues to match the characters they depict.
Yoshi Wilson (Jack) offers a calmness and unique perspective on life that drastically changes the course of the night of these four boys. "Open Road" is a tear jerker that Wilson delivers eloquently. Wilson's voice is strong, and he needs to keep going after those moments in the songs where his true vocal power can shine. I would have liked to have seen Wilson mask his character's life choices in order to provide the audience a more surprising revelation as the story comes to life but that is a personal choice and Wilson was masterful as he exhibited genuine emotion in regards to his true feelings towards each of the characters.
Cooper Flerlage who plays Andy will make you crack up throughout the show. While he struggled at times vocally, he never once let the take away from his character or the passion he brought to the role. There were a few times where his quiet was too quiet and his loud was too loud. Clarity, especially in this show is key and a reminder to all actors that the audience doesn't always know the show. None of that however took away from Flerlage's fantastic portrayal of Andy. His character has the biggest emotional struggle and Flerlage allows us to see that battle which is a true credit to his strength as an actor.
Like any show "Gory Days" has its ups and downs. I would have loved to seen more of a synergy in "Forget About It" as the song is so powerful when delivered with absolute precision but that fails in comparison to everything else these four young actors did right. The biggest disappointment honestly was the number of people who missed this incredible production. Maybe it wasn't suited for Broadway, but this show surely has its place in musical theatre and anyone who watches it will never question the ability to find strong, talented, young male performers in our town. "After the show anyone can simply say the names Ryan Modjeski, Addison Ruscoe, Yoshi Wilson, or Cooper Flerlage and drop the mic. Glory Days" produced by Rise Above Performing Arts was outstanding and should be on your can't miss list.
"Glory Days" runs through November 3rd. Tickets and more information can be found at www.riseabovearts.com.
Photo Credit - Rachael Johnson