Associate New York Theatre Critic
The latest offering at York Theater Company’s Main Stage Series is the new musical “Midnight at the Never Get.” The production history started with a successful short run at New York’s historical “Don’t Tell Mama” cabaret, and then a run at NYMF in 2016. Subsequently it had a six-week 2017 run at Provincetown Inn, Massachusetts and returned to Provincetown for a weekend engagement last month. So, in can be assumed that the book, music and lyrics by Mark Sonnenblick should be solid and the performance by Sam Bolen, who co-conceived the story and has performed in every production, should be cultivated and polished.
Mr. Sonnenblick’s musical compositions are indeed a fine representation of the era and The Great American Songbook, along with lyrics that are smart, sometimes witty, and turn sentimental during some sultry ballads. The obvious problem is that they were written for a cabaret performance and really do no address the task of character development or moving the plot forward. This required responsibility is left to the somewhat confusing and weak book that does not fare well, filled with every conceivable tragic blemish and stereotype in Gay history. Confused straight men who are closeted, flamboyant and campy behavior, the Stonewall uprising, the AIDS crisis, Gay men getting married, self-loathing, denial and delusion. Yes, it all happened, but gay life was not all dismal and cataclysmic. There is no trace of the positive to be found in this profoundly melancholic story.
The story starts in the 1960s and revolves around the gay relationship of Trevor, (Sam Bolen), a flamboyant singer and Arthur (Jeremy Cohen), a sedate songwriter. Their relationship is a bumpy ride with Trevor being aloof and delusional, following the lead of gay activists and Arthur being a controlled realist and somewhat closeted. Arthur is very talented, writing exceptional songs for Trevor who cannot sing them as well as much of the competition, which leads to an unpleasant breakup. Trevor is deceased and appears to be in a sort of purgatory waiting for Arthur to join him since he has just passed. Trevor tells the saga of their past, with a distorted view of himself as a remarkable entertainer, rather than the mediocre songster he had been. This version of the story and cabaret performance is what the audience experiences through his fallacious memory.
The cast is ever so competent, with Mr. Bolen (Trevor Copeland) plowing through the thirteen songs with ease and a strong vocal prowess, as he is accompanied by the proficient Jeremy Cohen on piano, leading an excellent five-piece band. Although Mr. Bolen’s performance is fine, it appears to be overly melodramatic and animated – even though it is how he wants to see himself – as opposed to who he really is in this memory play. Mr. Cohen is more down to earth and believable, resulting in a steady, solid turn as the Pianist and Arthur. Choreographer Andrew Palermo has made sure Mr. Bolen moves with a flair like Judy Garland. Director Max Friedman moves the evening along but needs to pull in the reins on the histrionic performances putting more depth into the characters to support the suspension of disbelief.
Although the events chronicled in this fictional narrative are accurate in the scope of gay history, it is a somewhat exaggerated depiction of homosexuals, relying on exposing their tragic lifestyle and never exploring positive situations, conduct, behavior or mores. It is an entertaining evening of cabaret but falls a bit short as a full-fledged theatrical production.
MIDNIGHT AT THE NEVER GET
The cast of “Midnight at the Never Get” features Sam Bolen, Jeremy Cohen, and Jon J. Peterson.
The creative team includes Christopher Swader and Justin Swader (Set Design), Vanessa Leuck (Costume Design), Jamie Roderick (Lighting Design), Kevin Heard (Sound Design), Addison Heeren (Prop Design), and Kevin Maloof (Production Manager). The Production Stage Manager is Julianne Menassian. The Assistant Stage Manager is Shanna Allison. The Casting Director is Jason Styres, CSA.
“Midnight at The Never Get” runs through Sunday November 4, 2018 at the York Theatre at Saint Peter’s (Citicorp Building, entrance on East 54th Street, just east of Lexington Avenue). Tickets are priced at $67.50 - $72.50 and may be purchased by calling (212) 935-5820 online at www.yorktheatre.org, or in person at the box office at the York Theatre. Running time is 85 minutes without intermission.
Photo: Jeremy Cohen and Sam Bolen in “Midnight at the Never Get” at York Theatre Company. Credit: Carol Rosegg.