REVIEW: HOWARD BARNES at BDT Stage

by Mona Lott

Musical theater lovers often find “song cues” within their everyday lives. Who hasn’t belted out, “I Feel Pretty” upon getting a new haircut, or “Good Mornin, Good Morning” when seeing your friends the day after your first night at camp? OK, so maybe it’s a small group of musical theater lovers.

Many of those musical theater lovers are singing and dancing on the Boulder Dinner Theater stage in a show whose main character doesn’t love musical theater, especially when he finds himself trapped inside one.

The Noteworthy Life of Howard Barnes is the show they’re doing and, yes, it may be a small circle of musical theater lovers who have seen this show or even heard of it.

There may be a reason for that, since the show has yet to even make it to a Broadway stage. Regardless, The Noteworthy Life of Howard Barnes seems to be the show that only an elite group of people can tell you much about.

You should know that the show by the notable song writing team of Christopher Diamond and Michael Kooman has been workshopped over and over and has won several awards. You should also know that the plot as it stands, takes an average, middle aged New Yorker who does NOT enjoy musicals and through some sort of theater magic, turns his life into a full fledged American musical, with jazz hands and everything.

Boulder Dinner Theatre has set the bar high for their Productions, almost always showcasing top notch talent and Broadway worthy tech that sometimes even rises above the level of the original production. “Howard Barnes” more than exceeds BDT’s goals.

Wayne Kennedy’s direction is smart, slick and consistent, steamrolling through bothh acts with high energy and up tempo fun. His collaboration with choreographer, Matthew D. Peters is brilliant. Their collaboration is seamless and its hard to tell where blocking ends and choreography begins. It makes for some magical scene changes where your left to wonder, “when did that set piece get there?”

The cast executes all that movement effortlessly and appears to be having so much fun that it’s infectious, and floats past the stage lights into the audience.

This cast is tight. Led by Chas Lederer in the title role and the supporting talents of McKayla Marso McDonough and Melissa Morris as the women in his life, McDonough is a stand out. Her voice is strong and tackles the music with a fearless capability.

All that being said, the show itself needs a few more workshops. It’s evident as soon as the lights rise on the apartment of Howard that the dialog is clumsy, awkward and well, pretty boring. It makes the first musical number a relief, jolting us from the snooze inducing chit chat and delighting us with the much more successful songs.

BDT manages to squeeze every bit of campy fun from the score and transforms this clunker into a fine evening of entertainment in spite of the writing.

Go for the songs, the inside jokes and campy fun, bring something to read for all those moments between songs

 

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