When I was 12 years old and a young performer, I was pretty talented. But I didn’t have the discipline to learn ten musical instruments. I didn’t perform at the Hollywood Bowl. l wasn’t on Nick Jr, I Heart Radio, or Broadway cast albums. I certainly didn’t write the book, music and lyrics for a new musical that is already better than many of the festival shows I’ve seen written by experienced teams of grown-ups. But twelve-year old Joshua Turchin has done all of that. All four performances of his freshman tour de force, The Perfect Fit, now playing at the Rave Theater Festival, are sold out. But they’re trying to add another one. So if you’re lucky, you can have a chance to see this phenomenon for yourself.
They say, “write what you know,” and this bright, young theater professional has done just that. The Perfect Fit takes us into the world of Broadway’s hard working, insanely talented show kids. With remarkably honest and well-honed dialogue, young Mr. Turchin has captured both the aspiring theater kids and the adults who guide and control them. At times, this show seems to want to be A Chorus Line for middle schoolers, filled as it is with lots of fun dancing and excellent choreography by Anna Noble. However, there really isn’t enough difference in the voices of the young characters in song, enough melody worth remembering, or enough of a story arc to have risen to that level…yet. But it’s still a developing work, and with Mr. Turchin’s talent, it could potentially get there.
Elizabeth (Clarion voiced Carly Gendell) is an overworked young singing dancer, being pushed to her limits by her Mama Rose-esque show biz mom, Peggy, played with committed ferocity by Julia Haubner. Elizabeth is competing for a role in a new musical with Alexandra (underplayed with TV level energy by Zoe Manadrel), who suffers from the lack of support of her well meaning but always absent mother (emotionally compelling Jenny Mollet). Alexandra has a younger sister, Rachel (perky Swayam Bhatia), who cannot get past writing lyrics about her life being like a giant toilet….although, after the joke is over, we have no idea why she thinks that.
Trying hard, but unsuccessfully, to be a triple threat performer himself is nerdy, musically gifted Jake, played by author Joshua Turchin with self-effacing charm, if not a whole lot of vocal power. This role very directly reflects his own life, as Jake is also writing a new musical called The Perfect Fit. Ironically, his story arc is the least developed part of the show. The resolution of his journey is the least satisfying part of the story, because his only obstacle to success is his unwillingness to show his work to anybody. It’s his normally annoying sister, Callie, who (spoiler alert) finally makes that possible, simply by showing it to a producer. She is played by Grace Deamicis with a professional energy and wisdom that made me very glad I got to see this young performer, who is a sure star-to-be.
One of my favorite aspects of the show is how keenly Mr. Turchin has observed the adult world around him. He pokes sweetly but brilliantly at the choreographer who keeps reminding the kids that he was one of the original Billy Elliots, and the director whose only claim to fame seems to be that he also teaches at NYU. Both roles are played with deft and delicious comic sensibility and spot-on characterization by Daniel Dunlow. One of my favorite songs in the show is Peggy’s song, “Fine By Me,” which captures her adult angst with a very mature eye for an author of any age. These choices exemplify the maturity beyond his years which makes me want to see what happens to Mr. Turchin when his voice changes.
Kudos also to director Gath Kravitz, who keeps all the story elements moving, and wrapped attractively in Ms. Nobel’s choreography. My only beef with the production is, if you’re going to do a show with kids without microphones, teach them all where the back of the house is, and tell them all to project to it. The band captured the spirit of the music well under the fine musical direction of Steven Cuevas.
It is an interesting parallel between the fictional story and the real world that Mr. Turchin submitted a first draft of this show to the Festival last March, and triumphed over literally hundreds of other submissions to get here. Mr. Turchin, like his fictional alter ego, Jake, has clearly not experienced any of the real frustrations of being a musical theater writer, and the lack of that perspective in the show is its weakest point. I look forward to hear what he has to say about the subject when he’s fifty years old and still pushing a show he’s been writing for fifteen years.
Meanwhile, however, lets celebrate this bright young man, who has accomplished more in twelve years than many people do in a lifetime, including writing a show worth watching, and developing further.