An explosion of silver sequins and jazz hands, the first act of Show Choir! The Musical is an effervescent, high-kicking delight. The story of the rise and fall (and rise?) of a nationally renowned show choir, the Symphonic Sensations, this joyous production is an affectionate send-up of that staple of so many American high schools: a hormonal ensemble of singing, dancing, and over-emoting teenagers. With snappy and jubilant choreography from director Gary Slavin, the material is also an ingenious premise for a theatergoing crowd, in which so many viewers are automatically in on the joke. Many future thespians willingly participate in or are subjected to "the art of show choir." (Full disclosure: my Nebraska group was called the Choraleers. And yes, I loved the show.)
Creators Mark McDaniels and Donald Garverick penned the book, music, and lyrics, and they have cleverly parroted the high-octane melodies and rhythms of show choirs into winning production numbers and engaging solos. They skillfully capture the simplistic sheen of lightweight four-part harmonies, as well as the American Idol-inspired trend toward pseudo power ballads.
They also deftly dramatize the dynamics of quirky teenage personalities. In a sense, Show Choir! works like A Chorus Line in reverse. When Jake wakes up from a silver-spangled dream, he is determined to make this line of dancing bodies a reality. And one by one, an initial group of shimmering performers separates into distinct personalities. The excellent cast turns in pitch-perfect performances—each ensemble member creates a memorable character, and they are well supported by Brian Michael Flanagan, as the enterprising Jake, and Dena Cubbin, as the sweetly ambitious composer, Monica. Michelle Millerick and Marcos Sanchez also provide exceptional comic work in a grab bag of character roles.
Jammed with too much emotional weight, the second act fumbles a bit, and the action kinks when it becomes overly (and overtly) earnest. Watching the downward spiral isn't as satisfying as the upward climb, and one wishes the writers would also extend their pithy energy into the more sobering material.
Framed by a Behind the Music-esque documentary that takes place in 2012, the group staggers to fame in chronological scenes, interspersed with quirky interviews and reflections. That a show choir could ever capture the cultural imagination of the American public seems preposterous, at best, but I wouldn't call this show a "spoof"—given the amazingly enthusiastic audience response, this is clearly (cue jazz hands) a celebration of the lovable geek in all of us.
Note: This production is part of the 2007 New York International Fringe Festival.