(Please click on the title to see the complete review.)
William Finn and James Lapine, whose previous collaborations include "Falsettos" and "25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee," have turned this quirky 2006 indie film into a musical now in previews at Second Stage. To take on a film that owed so much of its success to its perfect casting and one that has become somewhat of a cult classic, was an act of bravery. To their credit, they have captured both the satire and the pathos in this story of a really dysfunctional family from Albuquerque for whom the American dream has turned sour. Frazzled wife Sheryl (Stephanie J. Block), feckless husband Richard (Will Erat, for Will Swenson), silent son Dwayne (Logan Rowland), 7-year-old daughter and would-be beauty contestant Olive (Hannah Nordberg), Sheryl's suicidal brother Frank (Rory O'Malley) and Grandpa (a surprisingly delightful David Rasche) are all vividly portrayed. (Understudy Erat is so unlike Swenson in appearance that it put a different spin on the character.) To my surprise, the characters in the musical seemed less cartoonish and more sympathetic than in the film. Finn's music, while not memorable, is easy on the ear and Lapine's book has some nice touches. Beowulf Boritt's unit set extends a map of the southwestern U.S. over most of the theater ceiling. Michele Lynch's choreography is clever. Jennifer Caprio's costumes are a treat. Lapine also directed. Running time: 1 hour, 40 minutes; no intermission.
A question: What was the last musical you saw that was not based on a film or book?