By Tessa Raebeck
Parker has lived his entire life seeking solitude, trying to hide his affliction from the rest of the world. He doesn’t make new friends, he doesn’t have romantic relationships and he most certainly does not want to join the local chorus.
Parker, a straight-laced accountant, is suffering from a rare condition that makes his entire life take the shape of a musical. Bay Street Theater’s latest play, “My Life Is a Musical,” follows Parker’s struggle as he tries to navigate a world in which everywhere he goes people are singing, dancing, and going through life with an energy that is only found in musical theater—which he happens to despise.
The musical, written by Adam Overett and directed and choreographed by Marlo Hunter, “both real rising stars in musical theater,” according to Bay Street’s artistic director Scott Schwartz, will have its world premiere in Sag Harbor.
The play opens on a normal—and thus strange—day in the life of Parker, who quickly sees the order through which he controls his affliction turned upside down when his accounting firm sends him to work for none other than a rock band.
“Of course, it’s his worst nightmare,” Ms. Hunter said in an interview on Friday, July 18, “because he has to be around music all the time and he won’t have any idea what’s going on.”
With his company’s future hanging in the balance, Parker accepts the position.
In a structure similar to “Cyrano de Bergerac,” the 1897 play by Edmond Rostand, the play follows Parker’s struggle to discern between what is song and what constitutes a person’s inner thoughts.
“He hears the truth of their emotion in the song,” explained Ms. Hunter.
Although the proximity to music is what terrifies Parker, in the end, it is what helps him to see the value of his affliction.
“It’s about how this person struggles with and ultimately embraces the thing about him that he thinks makes him a freak, which is a very universal theme,” the director said.
“We all have things about ourselves that we feel don’t fit in or we’re not comfortable with,” Mr. Schwartz said. “This show explores that life from a wonderful, musical land.”
The cast, which Ms. Hunter called “sensational,” has appeared in celebrated shows including “Evita,” “Hair” and “The Lion King.”
It stars Howie Michael Smith as the confused Parker, and Robert Cuccioli, who plays the rising rock star Zach, with Kathleen Elizabeth Monteleone and Justin Matthew Sargeant playing other the principal roles.
The ensemble, “the hardest working people in show business,” according to Ms. Hunter, features Wendi Bergamini, Adam Daveline, Danyel Fulton and Brian Sills. They play over 70 characters between the four of them.
“It’s pretty astounding what they do,” Ms. Hunter said of the cast, “and they have to sing, dance and have broad comedic ability—they were hard to find.”
The show’s music is as varied as the ensemble’s roles.
“We really run the gamut stylistically,” she said. “It’s not all just traditional musical theater. There’s some pop, rock in there.”
Through Mr. Cuccioli’s character Zach, who Parker hears singing like a musical theater star, Mr. Overett shows how musical theater moments get transformed into rock songs.
“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people in previous readings or in our workshops who have said, ‘I don’t usually like musicals, but I love this,’” Ms. Hunter said, adding she thinks both sides of the audience will walk away from Bay Street with a love—or at least an appreciation—for musicals.
The show addresses the aspects of musicals that bother people while celebrating them at the same time.
“The form of musical theater, there’s an aspect of it that is—it’s larger than life—and in some ways, that feels inaccessible to people, because it seems insincere in its grandeur. But that’s also what other people love about the form—that it requires such a suspension of disbelief,” Ms. Hunter said.
“The beauty of the way Adam has written this show,” she added, “is that it may not seem realistic but he’s written us characters who are very real and very accessible and a story line that is incredibly heartfelt.”
“My Life is a Musical,” Ms. Hunter said, delivers the big production and entertaining numbers of a musical, but with “real heart and a strong core.”
“This is the kind of show that in your career you hope you find and I’ve been lucky enough to have found it,” the director said.
“My Life is a Musical” opens Tuesday, July 29, and runs through Sunday, August 31, at the Bay Street Theater, located at the corner of Bay Street and Long Wharf in Sag Harbor. For more information or tickets, call (631) 725-9500 or visit baystreet.org.