Wednesday, January 8, 2014
You can't get much further off-Broadway than Cabrillo Stage, at least geographically. Yet CS may be instrumental in launching a new musical on the road with its spirited production of Lunch. Instead of its usual year-end holiday production, CS opted this season for a new year's show, a modern urban fable about life, love, answered prayers, and second chances—a subject the authors know something about.
With a book by Emmy-winning TV writer Rick Hawkins, and songs by award-winning composer Steve Dorff and lyricist John Bettis, Lunch was first produced in 1994, when it went on a five-city national tour. Its collaborators moved on to other things until a series of serendipitous events—including a request from CS Artistic Director Jon Nordgren—led them all to reconvene in 2013 to revamp the show. This CS production of Lunch has a rewritten and updated book, ten new songs, and a hard-working cast directed with verve and chutzpah by CS veteran Andrew Ceglio.
When conductor Nordgren raises his baton in the pit, we hear not the expected musical overture, but a montage of city sounds—footsteps, bits of conversation, traffic, a hot dog vendor, screeching brakes. The curtain rises on a scrim of heavenly clouds and an ornate gate which admits a confused Mackenzie Richards (the affable and reliable Max Bennett-Parker) into a reception area presided over by chain-smoking, unflappable Mona (a very funny Samantha Pistoresi).
Mackenzie, who's just met his untimely demise via hot dog cart, finds himself knocking on Heaven's door, but given his line of work as a Wall Street player, he'll be fast-tracked straight to Hell unless he can prove himself worthy. He has one hour, from noon to 1 p.m. (the "Lunch Shift"), to answer the prayers of four random people in downtown Manhattan. (Read more)
I confess, I had some problems with the book. The "prayers" were often so nebulous and unformed, I wasn't always sure how or if they were being answered. Since this is the central premise of the show, some clarification is in order. But this is a great cast featuring such CS stalwarts as the scene-stealing Nicholas Ceglio and Ashley Rae Little, with her big, powerhouse voice. They give Lunch a hearty and heartfelt lift-off.