|Lincoln Clauss in "Burn All Night"
(photo: Evgenia Eliseeva)
In years past, the local theatrical season has traditionally begun with stunning productions by Cambridge's American Repertory Theater, from Finding Neverland to Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812. This year starts off on a more modest scale, at the company's Oberon venue, with the musical Burn All Night (albeit a world premiere), with Book and Lyrics by Andy Mientus (Smash) and Music by Van Hughes, Nicholas LaGrasta and Brett Moses, known as the Teen Commandments (would that everything about the production were as clever as their name choice), providing a synth-pop score. Directed by Jenny Koons and choreographed by Sam Pinkleton (Natasha, Pierre et al), it's a very brief show (ninety-five minutes, with one five minute intermission) about an imminent apocalypse and how four millennials approach this catastrophe, from drinks to drugs to decibels. It boasts a wafer- thin plot about Bobby (Lincoln Clauss) who's moving to New York, where he encounters songwriter Zak (Kenneth Clark, a standout, of Natasha, Pierre et al fame) and a girl named Holly (Krystina Alabado) and an artist named Will (Perry Sherman). There is also an ensemble consisting of seven singing actors, including Gabrielle Carrubba, Aurie Ceylon, Marquis Johnson, Ashley LaLonde, A J Rafael, Jamar Williams, and M J Rodriguez (another standout, remembered for Trans Scripts Part I: The Women from ART's last season), and a four piece band led by Michael Mastroianni. The creative elements include the minimalist Scenic Design by Sara Brown, apt Costume Design by Evan Prizant, excellent Lighting Design by Bradley King and Sound Design by Jessica Paz (always a challenging role in this problematic venue).
Meintus shows promise in his portrayal of how the music of today's youth and nightlife reigns supreme, but in the end neither the dialogue nor the music makes for many memorable moments, though the energetic performers are eager to share their varied talents. While one attempts not to demonize a subculture, the show itself presents a frank depiction of the pervasive self-absorption that characterizes prevailing views of millennials (but they're such easy targets, it's not unlike shooting fish in a barrel). I-phone gadgetry was omnipresent both on the stages and on the dance floor (which featured several members of the immersive audience who inexplicably sang along with well-rehearsed lyrics, a puzzlement).
All in all, one's reaction to this production may well depend largely on one's vintage. As a telling sidebar, complimentary ear plugs were provided. Honestly. And, at the risk of appearing unappreciative of the talent on display, that pretty much says it all.