Saturday, July 18, 2009

Bare, the Musical

Bare is a rock musical about Catholic school kids wrestling with sexuality, chiefly homosexuality. The Canadian premiere runs at Hart House Theatre until August 1. The show, written by Jon Hartmere and Damon Intrabartolo, was first presented in Los Angeles in 2000, and its in the same vein as Rent, Spring Awakening, and other musicals geared towards a young audience. In the interest of full disclosure, I left at intermission. My eyes were sore from rolling. So this review is based on only half the show. Who knows, maybe Act Two was exponentially better.

I don’t want to be unfair to the show, from WatersEdge Productions. The young cast give it their all, though they are not helped by either the bizarre set design or the terrible sound mix. The audience, largely made up of students, seemed to know the material and got the jokes. It helped, also, that they over-reacted to the guys kissing on stage, making it seem all the more controversial.

The problem lies in the writing. The lyrics are horrible. So much sanctimony, so many ‘poor me-isms’. It was easy to hate the characters, gay and straight alike. The story concerns a mope named Peter (Wade Muir), full of love for an ambiguous flirt named Jason (Graham Parkhurst). Their tale is irritating, and so is the story of Nadia, a dumpy fat girl with a mean streak. As much as I disliked her character, I did think the actress, Claire Rouleau, did a great job, especially with the crybaby song “A Quiet Night At Home”. The show’s real standout, however, is Nichola Lawrence, a fat black girl playing a sassy nun who brought the stage to life whenever she appeared.

I grew up both Catholic and gay. I no longer consider myself either, although the men I have sex with might disagree. Apparently, I still give head like a Catholic. Perhaps it is because of this that I could barely sit through Bare. The subject matter felt beneath me. However, I loved the poster, which depicts a hot boy’s bare chest, a crucifix and two male arms ensnaring him. I wish I had enjoyed the show as much as I enjoy the poster.