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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  NY Theater Reviews

 
ROOMS: A ROCK ROMANCE
at New World Stages

HEADING UP THE CHARTS
By JESSICA BRANCH

  Leslie Kritzer and Doug Kreeger/Ph: Aubrey Reuben

If there's any plot more familiar than boy-meets-girl, it's relentless-ambition-strains-relationship. Rooms, the new rock musical by Paul Scott Goodman and Miriam Gordon combines both storylines in rock-opera form. But while there's little that's groundbreaking here, wry humor, skilful staging and direction, and strong performances create a whole that's not reducible to its predictable parts.

The story's set in 1970s Glasgow, where sullen, proto-alcoholic claustrophobe Ian (Doug Kreeger) reluctantly agrees to provide music for song lyrics thrust into his hands by relentlessly perky go-getter Monica (Leslie Kritzer) has been commissioned to write for her parents' best friends' daughter's bat mitzvah. Unexpectedly, the two develop a professional affinity-he needs her drive and her chutzpah, she needs a naysayer to ignore. And, as the two move first to London and then to New York and become punk-rockers, of course they fall in love, even while their temperaments are tearing them apart.

It's abundantly clear that real love and intelligence went into this show. The direction, by Scott Schwartz (of the brilliant Bat Boy the Musical l) is seamless and smart, the staging is spectacular, and the music, performed by a five-piece band onstage, is several steps up from the bland pop that the phrase "rock musical" evokes. And when the performance is at its best, as in the brilliant bat mitzvah ballad "Scottish Jewish Princess" - which sets the stage for the duo's later punk breakout hit, "All I Want Is Everything" - it can be very good indeed.

The two leads exult in playing rock stars, albeit very different ones. Kreeger's sullen, gawky hero is at once convincing and exasperatingly winning-and he's a surprisingly effective performer for an introvert. The talented Kritzer (recently seen in A Catered Affair) gets to show off more in her flashier role as aspiring music star - determined to succeed, whether singing pop or penning the latest punk anthem. She's a show-stealer, which helps make her character's driving ambition and genre-jumping more plausible. The two juxtapose well (if a little improbably), perform together with panache, but they don't have the kind of compelling chemistry that would make up for how little we actually see of their budding affection-or help them transcend the play's predictable trajectories. If only their counterpoint could completely fill in for chemistry, the show would be electric.

 


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