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Theater | Theater Review

Soul 'bare'-ing

Angst and skin are revealed in a pop musical work loaded with raw emotion and its own strong voice.

October 19, 2000|JANA J. MONJI | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Jon Harmere Jr. and Damon Intrabartolo's new pop opera, "bare," isn't about the titillation of bared flesh. Although shirts are doffed by both sexes, this world premiere at the Hudson Mainstage Theatre focuses on raw emotion and soul baring.

Not unlike one of the better episodes of the television series, "Fame"--but much longer at almost three hours--this well-produced, smoothly orchestrated ode to self-absorbed teenage angst follows six high school seniors at a Catholic boarding school, St. Celia's. (Appropriately, St. Celia--or Cecelia--is the patron of music and musicians.) Stage smoke drifts over Dustin Lance Black and William Kaufman's set, where faux stained-glass window saints watch over the action. Midstage is a pulpit that transforms into a confessional. Above on both sides of the stage, a live band conducted by Intrabartolo sits unobtrusively.

Director Kristin Hanggi moves this 21-member cast in a flawless flow. The cast easily transitions between scenes and enthusiastically performs Onalee Hunter's imaginative choreography.

Jason (John Griffin), the basketball star heading for Notre Dame, will be playing Romeo in the senior class play. All the girls lust after him, including the social queen of this high school scene, the bed-hopping Ivy (Jenna Leigh Green). The class egghead, Matt (Wallace Smith), yearns for Ivy's attention, which she grants him out of convenience--like when the gang needs to use his car.

Ivy, of course, wins the role of Juliet, while Matt disappointedly settles for Tybalt. She shares her boarding-school room with the most unpopular girl, Nadia (Keili Lefkovitz), Jason's sister. Nadia rants about being assigned the role of the nurse, but in this musical, Nadia has all the best lines ("Are you going for a shadow over the eye or an eclipse?"), the wittiest yet most poignant songs and a sarcastic, deadpan grouse about a loveless "Spring."

Jason has secretly been conducting an affair with Peter (John Torres). Peter longs to bring his faith into alignment with his sexuality. His desire to jump out of the closet pushes the crowd-pleasing Jason away and into the arms of Ivy.

As some audience members guessed during intermission, Ivy becomes pregnant. She knows Jason must be the father. Peter finds comfort--not from the priest (Mark Edgar Stephens), but from the Sister Chantelle (Stephanie Andersen), in a lively gospel number. The priest will offer lukewarm guidance to a desperate Jason and later will be reprimanded by Peter.

The score and the earnest emoting drive the predictable second act to a satisfying conclusion. The fate of the five surviving students is left to our imaginations as they sing plaintively about having "No Voice." Will they find a voice in the adult world? Will there be a sequel? It hardly matters because in their first musical, lyricist Hartmere and composer Intrabartolo, who also co-wrote the book, have found a voice.

BE THERE

"bare," Hudson Mainstage Theatre, 6539 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Ends Nov. 19. $27.50, $20 for students. (310) 289-2999. Running time: 2 hours, 55 minutes.

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