It belongs to Nick Blaemire, who penned the book, music and lyrics to this charming new musical, enjoying its world premier in Kansas City. While “Alive” doesn’t fire on all cylinders, there’s enough dramatic horsepower here to make for an entertaining evening in the theater.
Check it out.
Blaemire’s story revolves around stoner Nathan (Van Hughes, late of the Broadway production of Green Day’s “American Idiot”) and his fast lane younger brother Jeremy (Michael Tacconi), back together in the house where they grew up. It’s the afternoon following their mom’s funeral; and, while Jeremy dutifully makes nice with the guests, Nathan won’t come out of the basement, preferring chats with a stuffed teddy bear and the grass stashed under the couch pillow to coming to grips with reality. Dad (Broadway vet Daniel H. Jenkins), lost in his loss, isn’t much help.
What we get for the next two plus hours is a coming of age tale of sorts– a bit out of synch for a couple of guys in their late 20s. It seems Mom had secrets, Dad has secrets, Jeremy has secrets– the whole thing a little too much “One Life to Live” for my tastes (the addition of the wonderful Lindsay Mendez, who turns out to have been Mom’s hospice aide, adds to the confusion). If not for the composer’s musical talents, I’d probably have changed the channel.
Blaemire has a gift for matching songs with storytelling, characters with counterpoint, even high jinks with harmony. It’s a fresh voice– not warmed over Sondheim or second rate Lloyd Weber. He’s part of a new generation of Broadway composers– Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey, Robert Lopez and his wife Kristina, Benj Pasek and Justin Paul also come to mind– who are finding their way in a difficult field.
The trouble is, Blaemire needs help; he’s a fine composer, but his lyrics and book writing leave something to be desired. Act Two of “Alive” doesn’t finish the hat. You expect a revelation about Nathan– he’s agoraphobic, into porn, got dropped on his head as a baby– to turn up the guilt on Jeremy for leaving town, but it never happens. Stuff comes out of left field. And the lyrics could use a second opinion.
But nobody writes a musical all by him/herself. With the right collaboration, “A Little More Alive” could be compelling theater. Til then, it’s a chance to hear some good to great songs performed by a fine cast in service of a story that, while it doesn’t hold together, takes you on a not unpleasant ride.
If that’s damning with faint praise, I don’t mean to — there’s a lot to like here from a talent we’re sure to hear from again.