We are getting down to the end of the New York Musical Festival. I have two more to review but I can honestly say in my list of top contenders for best of fest is Single written by Nat Bennett and composer, lyricist, and co-librettist Karen Bishko. This charming musical is easily a Jewish version of “Eat Drink Pray Love,” though women will easily relate. Its no wonder as these come from personal experiences Ms. Bishko who is herself a singer. Some people go to therapy Ms. Bishko channels her dating woes into the funky new musical Single as an aging single girl trying to find that perfect love, while recovering from that lost love she thought was so perfect.
We follow Leah, (a terrific Rachel Stern) a girl who compels us to fall in love with her. At 20 she is a pop star on the rise until she developed stage fright. Now 16 years later and she is a high power divorce attorney standing up for the women she handles and taking the ex’s to the cleaners. While dying to settle down Leah pushes real relationships away with her phobia of relationships. Eight years ago she broke up with Andy an airline pilot (Chris Gleim), who broke her heart. Ironically Mr. Glean plays almost all the other dateable men in Leah’s life. In the meantime her married bestie Jessica (a warm Jenna Pastuszek) is determined to see Leah happy and keeps fixing her up with men and encourages her to go back to singing. Jessica sets Leah up with some coaching from Gabriel (Ari Brand) a singer/ songwriter from the 90’s who Leah played over and over. Gabriel has faded into oblivion Stephanie Martignetti adds a forth to play all the other women in the show. As Leah sets out on her quest to become partnered she learns to love, forgive and be herself and in doing so learns to do the same for others.
The book is witty and smart, with men laughing more than women. The lyrics mature, quirky and poetic. The music like a new shoe that feels comfortable and welcomed. There is a feeling of fun and optimism even though they are based on the bad luck of the draw in love and dating. This show comes from the heart and we’ve all either been there ourselves or know someone who has.
The cast is extraordinary considering there was some kind of conflict and the cast and creative team were all changed at last minute. Even with books in hand Mr. Brand, Mr. Gleim, Ms. Pastuszek and Ms. Martignetti create complexed and varied characters. Ms. Stern is a star, she is so real and vulnerable with a voice that soars. She is the puppy in the rain that even though it growls at first we want to take in and make sure that she has a home and is loved.
I can see Single becoming a hit downtown off Broadway musical.
Single: June Havoc Theatre, 312 West 36th St. 8/6 5pm.