Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Saved the musical

Another musical adaptation of a movie is set to open in New York. Saved the musical, currently in previews at Playwrights Horizon, is based on the MGM movie of the same name. It revolves around Mary (Celia Keenan-Bolger) and her fellow students at a private Christian high school. The school seems to be a wonderfully pleasant and static place where students run from morning service to social pray circles to pray for those less fortunate. But slowly we begin to see the truth.

Dean (Aaron Tveit) the captain of the basket ball team and Mary's boyfriend, admits to her that he thinks he is gay. Mary and Dean then proceed to try and save him and turn him straight by exploring sexual activities. Without giving away too much, when word gets out about Dean's questioning, life for Mary and Dean in this close knit Christian school family gets much more complicated.

The show is still in previews, and apparently the night I saw the show some major changes to the end had just been implemented that afternoon. So the show is still in flux, but it still has some major problems. Mainly it just lacks focus.

The show starts with Mary speaking to the audience telling us that she's going to tell us her story and how she got to where she is. But along the way we spend way too much time with various sub plots to justify it being solely Mary's story. The show could stand some major cutting, with some characters being reduced and some songs trimmed and others cut, mostly those concerning the peripheral characters.

There is enormous potential in the story. It's characters are very quirky. An overly self-righteous lead singer to a Christian girl group, her atheist wheelchair bound brother, a Jewish rebel who's forced to go to the Christian school because she's been kicked out of every other high school, among others. And when they are all at their comic best, the show is extremely fun and smart. But unfortunately it falls a little flat when it tries to be a little more serious. It needs to find the right balance between parodying Christian stereotypes and portraying them with sincerity. Which can be (to borrow a word young white Christians, much like those in Saved like to use) awesome if done correctly. The Off-Broadway hit Altar Boyz is an example of how one can be making fun of and celebrate at the same time.
I feel like there may be some life for this show after it's limited engagement at Playwrights Horizon. It is currently in previews and opens June 3rd through June 22nd. Hopefully, unlike Mary trying to save a gay man from being gay, this show can actually be saved.

PS... What is with the artwork for the show? I think I saw that "heart with the wings and halo" in a clip art library in Word Perfect.

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