'Rooms' With A View Of Young Punk Love
By Peter Marks
Tuesday, August 5, 2008; C03
"Rooms" is an appealing relationship
rock-musical that establishes, once and for all, that
The brainchild of Glasgow-born composer Paul Scott Goodman and his wife, book writer Miriam Gordon, the 90-minute show -- in a world premiere engagement at MetroStage in Alexandria -- hits the pleasurable high notes in the stormy affair of a stage-struck young Scottish woman and a brooding Glasgow guitarist, with whom she plots an all-out charisma assault on the music industry.
Although an audience can recognize from miles away what's coming in this backstage romance -- the musical owes more than a passing nod to, of all things, "Funny Girl" -- Goodman's witty punk-rock parodies and power ballads stamp the musical with an engaging personality all its own. He's helped by the effervescent ministrations of a director, Scott Schwartz, who effectively flips a switch on his actors, Natascia Diaz and Doug Kreeger, that allows their natural electricity to flow.
splices together 17 numbers and economical amounts of dialogue to tell the
story of Diaz's Monica P. Miller, a Jewish girl from the suburbs who has enough
nerve to give Bette Midler a run for her chutzpah. She's described, in point of
fact, as "
The time is the
mid-to-late 1970s, when punk rock happens to be the music phenomenon of the
moment in worlds-away
Given the very familiar opposites-attract tensions in the story, Goodman and Gordon are wise to compress the banter wherever possible and let the band play on. (The five onstage musicians, conducted by Jenny Cartney, ably amplify the satisfying score.) And while there's an undeniable curiosity value to the exotic convergence of Jewishness and Scottishness, Monica is dialed up to a rather difficult-to-digest level of adorableness when we're introduced to her. That makes it a bit tougher to believe in a disaffected type such as Ian falling so hard so fast, or in the rapid transition of Monica from Broadway aspirant to imitator of the Clash.
Goodman does provide a foundation early on for a mischievous streak in Monica: Her first collaboration with Ian is a song for a Glasgow bat mitzvah, and what they come up with -- "Scottish Jewish Princess" -- is cheekily inappropriate for the occasion.
The musical picks
up speed after it lands Monica and Ian in
The intimacy of MetroStage's little theater seems just right for
"Rooms," which falls somewhere between cabaret and conventional
musical. Adam Koch's set consists almost entirely of a door on wheels, which
the actors roll into place to denote the many public and private spaces in
which "Rooms" plays out. It's a show that seems to revel in its
portability and, as such, will no doubt find receptive houses elsewhere. (This
Diaz -- seen in these parts most recently in Signature Theatre's "Kiss of the Spider Woman" -- does an excellent job of bringing out the charm in what could be a bulldozer of a character, successfully taking Monica from youthful irascibility to a more womanly warmth. As a result, the evening's climax raises the mandatory lump in the throat. Vocally, she is a supple match for the impressive Kreeger, who allows us to believe in Ian's passions and his weaknesses. Both are woven into his rendition of Ian's intense, cathartic anthem, "Fear of Flying."
All those assets, the production entertainingly puts on display -- along with a couple of pretty decent Scottish accents.
Rooms, music and lyrics by Paul Scott Goodman, book by
Goodman and Miriam Gordon. Directed by Scott Schwartz. Music
direction and orchestrations, Jesse Vargas; choreography, Matt Williams;
costumes, Alejo Vietti;
lighting, Herrick Goldman; sound, Daniel Erdberg;
dialect adviser, Doug Honorof. About 90
minutes. Through Sept. 7 at MetroStage,