Theatre review: Glory Days – friendships can take you only so far

Deciding to mount a production of a musical that opened and closed the same day on Broadway takes a lot of guts.   But I suppose the old saying “no guts, no glory” is somehow appropriate here as four real-life best friends present the story of four fictionalized besties in the The Boys Upstairs Equity Co-op production of Glory Days.

Adam Charles, Brandyn Eddy, Colin Sheen and Darren Burkett star in the musica Glory DaysA year after graduating from high school, the quartet reunites on the school’s football field to not only reminisce but to plot their revenge against the school and students that forced them together as outsiders in the first place.  As they hatch their scheme, the boys get caught up on their year apart and quickly discover that things are not quite the same.  Among the revelations is Jack’s admission that he is gay and Andy’s less than accepting reaction to that news.

Realizing that you should always write about what you know, Nick Blaemire and James Gardiner have penned a musical using their lives as the jumping off point.  For all its “realness” though there is also a generational barrier that makes some of it less relatable for those of us a little longer in the tooth; while themes of tolerance and acceptance may be universal, some of the show’s more sophomoric leanings make it less so.

As friends off stage, there is a natural ease to the ensemble of Darren Burkett, Adam Charles, Brandyn Eddy and Colin Sheen (pictured right in a photo by Paul H Wright) and as a result the cast doesn’t have to get over that first hurdle of pretending they like each other.  But being comfortable with one another only gets you so far, as they still must be believable in the inevitable conflicts that their characters work through.

In one of the biggest conflicts and a catalyst for much of the play, Andy (Sheen) reacts strongly to Jack’s (Burkett) coming out.  Problem is, despite knowing Andy has a problem with Jack being gay, there is a large chunk of time when Sheen and Burkett carry on as if nothing has happened.  It isn’t until Andy uses the word “fag” that any real conflict begins and given how little tension there is between Sheen and Burkett to this point it lacks any real punch.  It does however lead into “Other Human Beings”, one of the best songs of the night and with just enough emotional resonance to actually bring me to the edge of tears.

Vocally each of the cast struggles on their own but manage to find some strength and nice harmonies in the group numbers.   The show also sounds thin but much of that blame goes to the decision not to use microphones.  I realize that sound equipment is expensive and The Cultch’s Culture Lab is a small venue but Blaemire’s music screams out for amplification and it is next to impossible to give his pop-rock score a proper treatment without it.

Where the boys on stage may have struggled in the music department, the same can’t be said of the superb quartet that includes musical director Nico Rhodes on keyboard, Eugene Burton on guitars, Marisha Devoin on bass and Alicia Murray on drums.

As the characters in Glory Days come to realize themselves, sometimes friendships can take you only so far.  Same could be said for the Boys Upstairs and while they may have the guts, there is not a lot of glory.

3 Out 5 Stars Glory Days
18 – 28 January 2012
Culture Lab at The Cultch, 1895 Venables Street

Music and lyrics by Nick Blaemire.  Book by James Gardiner.  Directed by Sara-Jeanne Hosie.  A Boys Upstairs Upstairs Equity Co-op Presentation.  On stage at The Cultch’s Culture Lab through January 28, 2012.  Visit http://glorydaysvancouver.com for tickets and information.

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