Analog & Vinyl, Book, Music and Lyrics by Paul Gordon. Directed and choreographed by Michael Berresse. Reviewed by J. Peter Bergman.
Beth Glover and Preston Sadleir; photo: Tim Fort
Anything that matters can be seen in the eyes of a dog."
The faith of a stalker can be as persistent and pertinent as the true love from a Prince Charming, the infallible and incredible beauty of a Snow White or as true and open hearted as the persistence of a child or a dog. In Paul Gordon's new musical, 'Analog & Vinyl,' the stalker is a tiny young woman with a penchant for the late sixties who works as a volunteer in a decrepit record shop for the young man who owns it. Known as "Rodeo Girl" the young woman is obviously infatuated with the man, Harrison, who clearly has no idea of what is going on with her.
Harrison has faith in his dream of music and its formats, but clearly he is on a road to failure; even his father who has supported the dream has drifted out of the picture. In this divine new musical, it takes a stranger to set things in proper motion, or improper motion in reality. This pop-rock show (and don't let that monicker dissuade you from seeing it) has plenty of soul, and some to spare. The songs are sweet, sentimental at times, poignant at others and though they reflect ideally the characters who sing them they are also songs you can take home with you in your ear, your mind and your heart.
The Stranger in the show brings promises, choices and responsibilities. She brings hope to a situation, or situations really, that are hopeless. By the end of this tight, 80 minute one-act it is hope that escorts you out of the theater. Futures, not what they were believed to be at the outset, have been settled and the two strange women in the show have evened out the score for the man in the middle. They struggle for him, each in her own way, and the result, while predictable, still comes as a small surprise.
Preston Sadlier plays Harrison with a heart-throb intensity. He is so believable in the role that even bursting into song feels right for him. Music, his records, play such a part in his psyche that it is amazing he can ever just speak. For him there must be a song for every second of his existence. Sadlier has a tragic way of moving that becomes assertively pleasant when he defends his ways to either of the women in the play. He finds strength in song and in himself as well as he parrys the thrusts of both The Stranger and Rodeo Girl. Sadlier also sings with a fine voice and a perfect tolerance for Gordon's music.
Sarah Stiles plays Rodeo Girl, a role she has played in earlier readings and auditions of the show. It is a perfect role for her. She runs the gamut from very pretty to very dowdy in a short time and as she moves from her created stalker to her real identity she becomes less and less attractive and more and more appealing. Stiles gives us someone to root for. This is not truly a heroine, not a good girl but a good woman with an incentive to be bad. She wants what she wants when she wants it (a Victor Herbert song title) and she gets what she can when she has to. Stiles makes the character very real in a very unreal situation.
Stealing the show in her scenes is Beth Glover as The Stranger. She is gorgeous, compelling and absolutely devilish in her ways of getting under the skins of Harrison and Rodeo Girl. Older, wiser and in complete control of her life thrusts she is the opposite of both her onstage playmates. She keeps the show lively and bright and at the same time makes it a shade darker than "Damn Yankees." If, by some very very long shot you hated Stiles and Sadlier you could still justify the price of your ticket in the work of Beth Glover.
The fabulous set is designed by Timothy R. Mackabee with excellent lighting by Gina Scherr. Gregory Gale's costumes are perfect for the characters, right down to the delicious cocoa-shade of beige for The Stranger. Music director Rachael Ziering handes her quartet wonderfully in the pit.
Director Michael Berresse has given his cast a wide berth here, allowing them to play their characters so close to caricature that you almost want to reach out and pull them back, but you find you never really have to do that as they are playing larger than life characters and doing their work perfectly. He has given this show that edge of parable to work with that so compliments the concept of the play. His work here is terrific and the cast seems to be able to work with that tightrope Berresse has them walking. While the brief show does fly by, it never leaves its audience stranded over the abyss under that tightrope. Clearly he has taken Gordon's fascinating work and lovingly interpeted it for the stage.
A world-class winner of a world-premiere musical makes the trip to Weston a worthwhile venture. Don't miss this one.
Preston Sadleir and Sarah Stiles; photo: Hubert Schribl
Beth Glover; photo: provided
Analog & Vinyl plays at the Weston Playhouse, on the Village Green on Route 100 in Weston, Vermong through July 12. For information and tickets call the box office at 802-824-5288 or go on line at westonplayhouse.org.