Wednesday, April 1, 2009
Happiness is …
Don't even get me started on the unjustness of a universe that forces you to pick only one moment from your life to live in for all eternity. You're beloved grandmother died when you were 15, but you didn't meet the love of your life until you turned 30? Too bad, you can't spend the afterlife with both of them, so choose!
But even if you accept that life-after-death scenario, Happiness, the new Susan Stroman-John Weidman-Michael Korie-Scott Frankel musical that I reviewed for Time Out New York, still has more than its share of disappointing moments and textbook characters. Even a ballad that a man sings to his AIDS-stricken partner feels canned, with obligatory Fire Island references thrown in. And of course there's Brooklyn girl whose eternal moment takes place on Coney Island. (Is there any other Brooklyn locale where life-altering events can occur?)
The most evocative numbers involved Phyllis Somerville reliving a memory of first love circa World War II and Fred Applegate singing about sitting in the bleacher seats during the 1954 World Series for Willie Mays' catch. The most disappointing: the number sung by the married Jewish/Chinese couple (Robert Petkoff, Pearl Sun), who quiz one another with flashcards about about the other's religious and cultural traditions in preparation for family gatherings. That's the moment they want to live in for all eternity? C'mon! I think most couples, regardless of their outward differences, would have picked a moment that simply expressed the love they shared, not emphasized the things that made them different. That's the main reason why this show left me so emotionally unconnected. It focused too much on character "types" and didn't allow its characters simply to be individuals.