Review “The Next Thing”: Perfect Chick Flick

Signal Ensemble Theatre presents the World Premiere of THE NEXT THING.

This play is a romantic comedy.  Two film actors loathe each other.  Their chemistry on screen binds them together in a multiple picture deal.  There is romance.  There is comedy.  This play could be a summer rom-com blockbuster movie.  The light-hearted frolic is the perfect chick-flick for tweens to crones.

As a play, it feels more like a revue.  Because the storyline is predictable, the songs by Jon Steinhagen (music, lyrics, and musical direction) become the showcase. The book by Director Ronan Marra serves as the playful banter between the songs.   THE NEXT THING is song centric. Steinhagen’s original score and lyrics pulls us through the Hollywood love story.  In the leads, the straitlaced Courtney Jones (Kate) and the wannabe rapper Christopher Selefski (Conor) are the match made in Hollywood.  From the get go, we are rooting for the pair to unite offscreen too. Their duet “All an Act” is a charming relational teaser.  Jones, in particular, has an outstanding singing voice.  Her two solos, “The Next Thing I Say” and “Some Direction” have the wistful allure of Taylor Swift songs.

Along with the romance, there is plenty of comedy.  Signal regulars, Elizabeth Bagby, Vincent Lonergan and Joseph Stearns, play caricatures with hilarious results.  Bagby, in multiple roles, is dazzling.  She continually transforms in her range of accents and attitudes.  Her cheeky duet with Lonergan, “Old Dog”, is riotous.  Later, Lonergan joins Stearns in the zesty “The Best Ideas.”   This catchy tune has the potential to become the national anthem for pub crawls.

THE NEXT THING has plenty of things going for it.  One of the amusing extras is fake posters for each of the pretend movies.  The posters are projected on a screen and plastered in the lobby. They are pretty damn clever.

I could and would see THE NEXT THING -as is- in a movie theatre.  I’m a sucker for a rom-com.  As a staged musical, the play either needs more substantial story or dance numbers.  Live theatre goers want their musicals more elaborate in emotional depth or visual aesthetic… or both.

Running Time:  Two hours and thirty minutes includes am intermission.

At Signal Ensemble Theatre, 1802 W. Berenice

Book by Ronan Marra

Music and lyrics by Jon Steinhagen

Directed by Ronan Marra

Music direction by Jon Steinhagen

Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays at 8pm

Sundays at 3pm

Thru June 7th

Buy Tickets at www.signalensemble.com

Production photo by Johnny Knight

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