LITTLE BAR ON SULLIVAN STREET
REVIEW: NEXT THING YOU KNOW
BY RYAN M. LUÉVANO
Intimate theater is thriving all over Los Angeles and the Chromolume Theatre at the Attic is one of the quintessential hot spots to take in a show with a mere fifty strangers. Currently running at the Chromolume is the West Coast premiere of Joshua Saltzman and Ryan Cunningham’s (Jonathan Larson Award winners, Drama Desk and MAC Award-nominated writers for their Off-Broadway musical, I Love You Because) musical Next Thing You Know, a story of four New Yorkers struggling with relationships, and life decisions while having a drink or two . . . or three along the way.
Not only does this chamber musical fit nicely in the space, but the direction and scenic design by Shen Heckel adds a layer familiarity as he creates moments reminiscent of the sitcom How I Met Your Mother. This otherwise ordinary musical, that already includes elements from the TV show such as the setting in the little bar, age of the characters and situations is strengthened by Heckel’s artistic choice to bring in this popular reference. Heckel also does a superb job bringing out the comedic scenes/songs in the show by heightening those moments creating audience favorites such as the computer scene between Darren and Luke, and the song “Hungover,” which perfectly captures the spirit of that feeling. Additionally, all the action of the musical moves at a constant pace that keeps the audience interested through the 90-minute running time.
Saltzman’s blues, pop and rock infused score resonates exquisitely in all the voices of this talented cast. Tara Shoemaker is a strong Waverly who is not sure what she wants in life, her bold voice shines in “Don’t Say Another Word” and “I Wish There Were A reason.” Maya Sayre is the spunky Lisa who’s fruity and expressive voice provides beautiful song moments in “Manhattan Bridge,” and “You Can’t Be Everything You Want.” She is a fitting contrast to Shoemaker; their duets “Stay” and “The Next Thing You Know” offer some of the best performances in the show.
Brad Simanski (Darren) is a hilarious and deep, he’s the little guy with so much to give in all of his scenes and songs, he’s our Ted Mosby. Simanski takes us through the transformation of his character from beginning to end. Significantly taller, Alex Allred (Luke) reminds us of the charming and handsome Barney Stinson, Allred takes up the whole stage in every scene, his robust and honeyed voice are supreme in “Morning After Omelet,” “The Way To Get A Girl” and “And I Breathe”.
WHAT ABOUT THE MUSIC DIRECTOR?
Emily Cohn has put together a remarkable cast who handles this contemporary score with ease and expression. She masterfully leads this production from the piano, keeping up with all the action on stage and following her singers every move.
As a musical, this piece is far from Saltzman and Cunningham’s greatest achievement as there are many dramaturgical issues; however, with the Heckel’s smart direction and the performances by the: “LEGEN…wait for it…DARY” cast you are in for an evening of youthful entertainment. Next Thing You Know runs at the Chromolume Theatre at the Attic from April 15 – May 1, 2016, for more tickets and more information visit: www.crtheatre.com.