Friday, August 10, 2018

Fringe 2018 - Review - A Part Of Me - 5 stars

tweet review - #mnfringe show 36 - A Part Of Me - super solid musical in a Fringe-sized package; integrates then elevates music; book, lyrics and music really work together; impressive cast, strong voices; also about something (organ donation) w/out hitting you over the head - 5 stars

If I told you someone had written a musical about organ donation, would you think I was kidding?  If I told you that musical was in fact very effecting and entertaining, would you still think I was kidding?  Well, I’m not.  Imagined Theatre has a new musical in the Fringe called A Part of Me, and if you like musical theater, you should see it.  It’s got a solid book, well-written lyrics, lovely songs that illuminate character and drive the plot, a strong cast with great vocal power - and even though it’s got a message, it doesn’t hit you over the head with it.  Just good work all around.

“I’m pretty sure the romance was gone the first time I inserted your catheter.”

The intensive care unit at the hospital is a little more crowded that unusual, with patients both young and old a little closer together than they would normally be due to some long overdue renovation work in another part of the facility.  Nurse Cate (Katie Consamus) runs the place in a reassuring manner.  Liz (Rachel Schmidt), the harried patient services manager, needs to steel herself for daily encounters with Rita (Abilene Olson), the fierce mother fighting for the survival of her son Jimmy (Logan Schuneman).  Jimmy needs a new kidney.  Down the hall, musician Sean (Dan Piering) is waiting on a new liver.  Sean and his guitar fill the ward with music on his better days.  This leads Cate to bring Sean and Jimmy together for guitar lessons.  Over all this looms the possibility that new organs may not be found in time for either patient, and the ripple effects that death sentence would have on those around them.

“Those left behind, but still a part of me…”

All that makes A Part of Me sound unduly heavy.  It’s serious at times, but I wouldn’t say it’s at all difficult to sit through.  Sean’s introduction of music to the proceedings means the transition to everybody singing isn’t the kind of abrupt shift it might normally be in musical theater.  Directors Julie Ana Rayne and Phil Darg are also the creators of A Part of Me (book by the two of them, music and lyrics by Rayne) and they transfer the story from page to stage with the light touch it needs.  Sure the stakes are life and death, but the music, and shared humanity of the characters, lifts everything up and makes it more hopeful.  The reality of the situation, and the heightening of it by emotion turning into bursts of song, make both the highs and lows of it more powerful.  The happy ending for one set of characters feels fully earned, and the sadder result for another doesn’t feel manipulative (and in a situation like this, that’s quite a trick.)

“I’m gonna outrun time.”

The whole ensemble is first rate - strong acting, great singing, and their voices all blend so well together you’d think they’d been working together for a long time, not just a few weeks of rehearsal.  And while none of this story feels rushed to fit into a single hour of Fringe, I can easily see how a few new scenes and songs, here and there, could further deepen the relationships between all the characters, and help us get to know all their characters better still, which would only increase the impact of the way everyone’s stories play out.  We might have a new full-length musical on our hands in another year.  In the meantime, enjoy the Fringe-sized version of A Part Of Me.  In a Fringe filled with musical content, this one stands out.

5 stars - Very Highly Recommended

Here's some handy links to reviews of 5 Star Shows, 4.5 Star Shows, 4 Star Shows, 3 Star Shows, and my full Top 10, Top 11-20 and Returning Favorites lists.

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