Goodman’s predictable off-Broadway, Rooms: A Rock Romance, receives mixed reviews.
The rock musical has recently become a tired genre of nuances. After the brilliance of the original productions of Rent and Spring Awakening, it’s almost impossible to compete. Yet season after season, a new musical offers up a story of misfit lovers and the trials of modern relationships. Such is the case with Rooms: A Rock Romance, which recently opened at the Prince Music Theater.
The 11th Hour Theatre Company is only the second company to present this show after its 2009 off-Broadway run at New World Stages. With music, lyrics and book by Paul Scott Goodman of Bright Lights, Big City fame, the show garnered mixed reviews.
In the new musical we find Monica and Ian, two musicians in Glasgow, Scotland, in the late 1970s. The pair get professionally and romantically entangled, bringing them to London and then New York City. Monica’s whatever-it-takes attitude and Ian’s affinity for whiskey complicate things. The weakness in Goodman’s musical is the unabashed predictability. The unoriginality of the plot, however, was saved by a few powerful songs like “Bring the Future Faster,” sung with excellent stamina by Alex Keiper.
The talent in Rooms is what shines through. Keiper and Michael Philip O’Brien play the lovers, Monica and Ian. Everything from their Scottish dialects to their painfully beautiful voices carried the show. O’Brien, a 2009 Barrymore Award winner plays the reclusive guitarist with a tender austerity. Keiper’s character is innately different; she’s bubbly and driven, and the two mesh well.
What’s interesting about this production is the design. It didn’t elicit the ‘70s or punk rock in any way, unlike the 2009 off-Broadway production. Craig Vetter’s set was a myriad of neutral walls with music lines painted throughout, and while its aesthetic was lacking, it utilized the small space and budget. Shelly Hicklin’s lighting was as dynamic as they come, making smooth and interesting transitions.
All in all, the show is enjoyable. It is certainly no Pulitzer Prize winner, but it has a heart. It’s about love, and for some, that never gets old.
Max McCormack can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.