BWW Reviews: New Musical, ONE NIGHT IN NEW YORK, Debuts at Capital Fringe

I like splashy new musicals about the fabulous place that is New York City as much as the next person even if they're slightly derivative of all that have come before them. While Eric Tipler's new musical One Night in New York is not completely derivative, it's not completely original or unexpected either. It's more of a hybrid.

In this case, it's not just the typical 'fish out of water' story we've all heard a thousand times over. You know, a 20-something from Iowa with conservative, worried parents coming to the city for the first time (in this case just for one night en route to his aunt's house in New Jersey) in the hopes of finding one's destiny. Instead, the story is a bit of a combo deal. There's a little bit of Cinderella in the mix (complete with an interesting fairy Godmother to help our sheltered protagonist along), a little tribute to the Wizard of Oz (Glinda, to be exact), a bit of an exploration of sexual identity and New York City nightlife, and a whole lot of mostly cute young men in a variety of fashionable and well-fitting 'prep' wear or threads of the more outlandish sort.

So, in essence the story is part love letter to NY, part story about the need for love and acceptance, and part story about a young person realizing what they think they want/need initially might change along the way as they experience life.

Does the musical work? Well, it depends.

Tipler's music (limited as it may be in the 75 minute show) is pretty varied for a new composer and is quite hummable. There's a nice showy number with an obligatory tap break ("The Grindr Shuffle" - yeah, if you're like me you had to look it up), your standard 'I Want' song ("Normal"), and a comedic little ditty playing up stereotypes about young, gay boys who live in Chelsea ("The Chelsea Gavotte"). There are also a couple of other instrumental dance numbers (nicely played by a three piece band under the direction of A.J. Welch) and a song about coming to NYC for the first time and seeing all its diverse inhabitants (the title song "One Night in New York"). It's certainly not at the level of say Adam Gwon or Jason Robert Brown in terms of intricacy, but it's not so basic that it's uninteresting.

The lyrics range from those filled with a variety of sexual innuendo ("The Grindr Shuffle") to those which are, well, how shall I say it? Schmaltzy and expected as heck (the lyrics to "Normal" come to mind here). However, none are completely unacceptable.

The book intentionally plays up clichés and stereotypes about young gay men in America's heartland and in NYC and whether that's your cup of tea I guess depends on personal preference and whether you can self-identify with those kinds of jokes. Some were a little crass for my taste, but I understand the satirical tone that the play takes. Likewise, though the characters - particularly our protagonist Michael, charmingly and innocently played by college student Paul Luckenbaugh, and a fairy in drag, played by the scene-stealing Ryan Patrick Welsh - are largely archetypes, the cast does a wonderful job of infusing them with heart and humanity.

For Tipler being a one-man-band writing his first musical (yes, the book, music and lyrics are all him), it isn't bad. I'd normally suggest that doing it all isn't usually a good idea - history shows that it usually doesn't work out - but his product is hardly cringe-worthy and does show promise even if its future audience may be limited. (Then again, I may be wrong here. The Book of Mormon has popular appeal - although to be clear I am in no way suggesting this piece is ready for Broadway or that it has anything in common with that musical other than potentially some shock value.)

You have to love the 'Broadwayesque' choreography (Craig Cipollini, who also directed the show), which infuses the sometimes too lengthy book scenes with some liveliness. The toe-tapping 'Grindr" production number is the definite highlight in this regard.

Besides Luckenbaugh - who makes up for his only adequate singing and limited vocal range (he's more successful in his higher register) with strong and unforced acting - and of course Welsh, the musical affords some delicious showmanship opportunities for a triple threat ensemble cast that's uniformly talented. Of note, the adorable Pasquale Guiducci (Robby) and Peyton Lynch (Bobby) do not waste any opportunity to play up the comedy and Rick Westerkamp shows his versatility in playing not only Michael's housewife mother in Iowa, but also a tourist and a leather clad dude in a bar.

All in all, it's a pretty polished product for a Fringe musical and not a bad way to spend an evening if the subject matter appeals to you.

Running Time: 75 minutes.

One Night in New York has two more performances in this year's Capital Fringe Festival. For further show information and tickets, visit the Fringe website.

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From This Author Jennifer Perry