Librettist: Mark Campbell
Music by: Debra Barsha, Mark Bennett, Peter Foley,
Jenny Giering, Peter Golub, Jake Heggie, Lance Horne,
Stephen Hoffman, Giheih Lee, Steven Lutvak, Steve Marzullo,
Brendan Milburn, Chris Miller, Greg Pliska, Duncan Sheik,
Kim D. Sherman, Jeffrey Stock, Joseph Thalken
Directed by Derek Van Barham
Music Direction by Robert Ollis
Produced by Pride Films & Plays
Innovative. refreshingly charming and well sung story-driven revue is special
Originally conceived as a one-man show, Songs From An Unmade Bed didn’t do too well in 2005 in New York. But when the creatives at Pride Films & Plays, Robert Ollis, Derek Van Barham and David Zak got involved, Unmade became a two-person show about on-and-off again lovers. The concept is to have the lovers tell their relationship story only through Mark Campbell’s smart lyrics with the music from 18 composers. Thus, Unmade emerges as a revue strong on story that necessitates two expert actor/singers. It is sort of a light chamber pop opera but with loads of magnetism.
Kevin Webb and Jordan Phelps gave tour de force performances as the two lovers struggling to achieve love and companionship. Seldom do you witness two singers who put terrific acting into their expert singing. Each ‘stayed-in-character’ and reacted as the other sang. Their duets soared into the heavens as we witness the ups & downs of a contemporary gay relationship. We instantly warm to the infectious charm from Kevin Webb and Jordan Phelps and we enjoy laugh and cry with their honest tumultuous relationship.
Told completely through song, the tunes are a rich pastiche of styles from ballads to Broadway to operetta to pop anthems. There is a campy tune about not dating an actor (“Exit Right”) to a funny “I Want To Go Out Tonight.” The angst, the joy, and the anticipation of finding (and keeping a mate) are covered in song. Director Derek Van Barham uses cute movement, some dance and loads of dressing and undressing to underscore the emotions of a relationship. Combine the terrific score with fine piano work from Robert Ollis and cellist from Nora Barton with help from Jonas Davidow for certain numbers, and Songs From An Unmade Bed emerges as a wonderful, beguiling 85 minute musical revue. Come early to hear either Jonas Davidow or Tommy Thurston sing selected show tunes from Gershwin to Kander & Ebb to Kern to get you into the mood for the heartfelt show to follow.
The concept of having two talented singer/actors tell an honest story completely through songs is a daunting challenge that worked well due to the ability of Webb and Phelps to sing and act their songs so wonderfully. Mark Campbell needs to see how Chicago creatives can take a show to the next level. Songs From An Unmade Bed is so theatrical and well crafted (and, of course, well sung) that it is a rare gem that begs to be seen.
Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast
Date Reviewed: April 6, 2014
For more info checkout the Songs From An Unmade Bed page at theatreinchicago.com
At the Apollo Studio Theatre, 2540 N. Lincoln, Chicago, Il, call 773-935-6100, www.ticketmaster.com, tickets $25 – $30, Thursdays thru Sundays at 7:30 pm, running time is 85 minutes with intermission, through April 27, 2014