A Walk on the Moon and Woodstock revisited in music.

The guests at the bungalow colony watch the moon landing live on TV in the world-premiere musical, A WALK ON THE MOON, performing at A.C.T.’s Geary Theater now through July 1, 2018.
Photo credit: Alessandra Mello

A WALK ON THE MOON: Musical. Book by Pamela Gray. Music and lyrics by Paul Scott Goodman. Additional lyrics by Pamela Gray. Directed by Sheryl Kaller. A.C.T.’s Geary Theater (415 Geary St., San Francisco).  415.749.2228 or www.aact-sf.org.  June 9–July 1, 2018.

A Walk on the Moon and Woodstock revisited in music. Rating: ★★★☆☆

In July of 1969 Apollo 11 landed on the moon and a month later 400,000 or more people descended on Woodstock to hear the top names in popular music that led to a defining time in the growing anti-Vietnam war movement. Pamela Gray was preteen Jewish girl staying with her family at a Catskill Mountain resort nearby to Woodstock during those two momentous events.  Her memory of that time is the nucleus of A Walk on the Moon that first appeared as a movie in 1999 and now has been created as a musical receiving its world premiere under the aegis of San Francisco’s American Conservatory Theater (A.C.T.). It is a visually gorgeous production that may require a few adjustments before possibly heading to Broadway.

The Catskill Mountains received the nickname of the ‘Borscht Circuit’ or ‘Jewish Alps’ when those families from New York flocked there each summer. In Gray’s play the resort is Dr. Folger’s Bungalow that catered to working class families. The Kantrowitzs – father Marty (Jonah Platt), mother Pearl (Katie Brayben), 14 year old Allison (Brigid O’Brien), 8 year old Danny (Elijah Cooper) and grandma Lilian Kantrowitz (Kerry O’Mally) are sharing a cabin.  Marty, a TV repair man works in the city during the week and comes up on weekends. Because of the impending moon landing to be shown on TV he has to put in overtime work requiring him to miss his weekend visit.

The major plot revolves around Pearl and her encounter with a travelling salesman named Walker Jerome (Zak Resnick) known as the “Blouse man.”  An equally important character is the rebellious Allison with her evolving sexuality and budding relationship with guitar playing teenager Ross (a charming Nick Sacks).

The storyline has a great deal of potential with Pearl being disconsolate over being married young after becoming pregnant thus thwarting her intellectual desires and Allison a naive rebellious youngster treading on a tenuous path to womanhood.  Herein lies the basic defect in this musical: The lack of charisma between the actors playing Pearl and Walker making it difficult to become engaged in the severe damage cause by their sexual affair and then too director Sheryl Kaller allowing Allison to be totally unlikable plus Brigid O’Brien’s shrill voice has no nuance.

The music and lyrics are very serviceable but hardly memorable although there are two charming vignettes. First with Ross’s entrance composing the song “Hey Mister President” and one would hope there would be more such episodes. Another memorable scene involves the “mah Jong ladies” singing “World Without Men.”

The staging is a marvel depicting the internal and external cottages in the woods with trees in full foliage moving on and off the stage with projections (Tal Yarden) of the historical events appropriately appearing to emphasize the onstage action. Although the direction is laudable the too pat resolution seems artificial. Running time is two hours and 10 minutes with an intermission.

CAST (in alphabetical order): Jeffrey Brian Adams as Neil; Katie Brayben as Pearl; Jake Bronson as Stanley; Elijah Cooper as Danny; Monique Hafen as Rhoda; Molly Hager as Bunny; Nina Kissinger as Myra;  Ariela Morgenstern as Eleanor; Brigid O’Brien as Alison;  Kerry O’Malley as Lillian;  Jonah Platt as Marty;  Zak Resnick as Walker;  and Nick Sacks as Ross.

CREATIVE TEAM: Pamela Gray (Book and Additional Lyrics), Paul Scott Goodman (Music and Lyrics), Josh Prince (Choreographer), Donyale Werle (Scenic Designer), Linda Cho (Costume Designer), Robert Wierzel (Lighting Designer), Leon Rothenberg (Sound Designer), Tal Yarden (Projection Designer), Greg Kenna (Music Director), Michael Starobin (Orchestrations), AnnMarie Milazzo (Vocal Arrangements), and Matt DiCarlo (Production Stage Manager)

Kedar Adour, MD

Courtesy of www.theatreworldim2.com.

The guests at the bungalow colony watch the moon landing live on TV in the world-premiere musical, A WALK ON THE MOON, performing at A.C.T.’s Geary Theater now through July 1, 2018. Photo credit: Alessandra Mello