Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Towards the Moon, a Folk-Rock Musical from Scotland

L-R: Lindsay Avellino, Liam Nelligan, and Lindsay Wund in TOWARDS THE MOON.  Photo by Paul Andrew Perez.

Despite his apparent delusions of grandeur (he expects to write a great novel but can’t seem to come up with any good ideas), Bobby (Liam Nelligan) seems to be the quintessential loser.  He’s 27 years old and still living at home with his Mum (Lindsay Wund); he has just been fired from his job at a call center by Ms McKenzie (Elizabeth Pryce Davies); and he has been dumped by his girlfriend, Mandy (Elena Ruigomez).  Unable (or unwilling) to find a new job and rejected when he applies for admission to James Watt College, Bobby seems to have hit rock-bottom and he turns to drink for solace.

But it is always darkest before it gets totally black.  Bobby discovers that his best friend, Sam (Ricky Romano) has hooked up with Mandy (which Bobby sees as his friend’s betrayal of him, despite the fact that Bobby and Mandy already had broken up).  Inebriated, Bobby lunges in anger at Sam, trips on the corner of a bench and falls on his head, rendering himself unconscious.  And ironically, that’s when Bobby’s life turns around.

While in hospital, Bobby has an out-of-body experience, in which he sees himself lying unconscious on his hospital bed with his one remaining friend, Mag (Lindsay Avellino) at his bedside, and that, literally, turns out to be his wake-up call.  Bobby does in fact write his novel and it is a great success.  He travels to New York, becomes rich and famous and, in the most hackneyed and timeworn of literary traditions, discovers that “east or west, home is best,” “all that glitters is not gold,” and that, indeed, ”what does it profit a man if he should gain the whole world and lose his soul?”  Or as several of the actors in Towards the Moon frequently put it:

You can’t see the stars in New York.
Not like you can on the Clyde.

And ultimately, that is the message that I think we are meant to take away from Towards the Moon by Andrew McGregor, now premiering at 59E59 Theaters on East 59th Street in midtown Manhattan.  Not that one should face reality and abandon childish dreams (for if Bobby had done that he never would have become the acclaimed writer he always knew he was meant to be).  Nor that one should stick to his dreams at all costs, no matter how far-fetched they might be (which, is, of course, what Bobby did for so long that it cost him his love, his home, his friends and family).  Rather, the mixed message that is conveyed is that we should hold fast to our dreams but never forget that what we sacrifice in seeking to achieve them might be worth more than whatever we actually do realize – in much the way that King Midas eventually discovered not that gold was worthless (it certainly isn’t), but that what one sacrifices to get it may well be worth much more.

Towards the Moon is a folk-rock musical that first saw the light of day at Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2012.  It is pleasant enough, covering very familiar territory, breaking no new ground, and with a relatively forgettable book and lyrics.  But the score is distinctively entertaining and the musical’s young and enthusiastic cast members are so contagiously exuberant that audience members (including this one) at the performance I attended uniformly left with broader smiles on their faces and bouncier springs to their steps than when they first walked in.  

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