Pride Films & Plays at Apollo Theater. Book and lyrics by Mark Campbell. Music by various authors. Directed by Derek Van Barham. With Kevin Webb, Jordan Phelps. 1hr 20mins; one intermission.
Theater review by Kris Vire
Lyricist Mark Campbell worked with 18 different rising musical-theater composers—one per song—for this revue of tunes about the gay urban dating experience; the songwriters include such names as Jenny Giering (The Mistress Cycle), Duncan Sheik (Spring Awakening), Chris Miller (The Burnt Part Boys) and Steven Lutvak (A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder).
Presented in its 2005 debut at the New York Theatre Workshop as a solo piece for a single character reminiscing on a series of lovers and friends, Songs from an Unmade Bed is reconceived by Pride Films & Plays and director Derek Van Barham as a two– and sometimes three-hander, tracking the on-again, off-again relationship between characters played by Kevin Webb and Jordan Phelps, with occasional intrusions by a somewhat ill-defined third character played on alternate nights by Tommy Thurston and Jonas Davidow.
The score introduces a number of charming tunes destined to become mainstays at piano-bar open mic nights, with highlights including Sheik’s wistful “Oh, To Be Stupid Again,” Debra Barsha’s “He Never Did That Before” and Stephen Hoffman’s elegiac “Our Separate Ways.”
Van Barham’s recasting doesn’t work seamlessly; some of these songs, notably Lance Horne’s “The Man in the Starched White Shirt,” are clearly meant to describe a finite affair and can’t be shoehorned into an ongoing narrative. And some of the rather busy choreography (presumably by Van Barham, since no choreographer is credited) is simply too big for the hyperintimate Apollo Theater studio space.
Still, Phelps and Webb deliver a pair of seductive performances, even when they seem miscast in individual numbers; Phelps in particular shows off a rich and multilayered voice that’s matched with a confident presence.