Book, Music, and Lyrics by Laurence Mark Wythe
Directed by John D. Glover
Music Direction by Kory Danielson
Choreography by Cameron Turner
Produced by Kokandy Productions, Chicago
Wistfulness for the Mature Couple
Given the limitations of using only a piano for accompaniment, it really is amazing to hear enjoyable songs in a chamber musical. Tomorrow Morning, a 2006 creation of British writer Laurence Mark Wythe, belongs to the increasingly popular genre of relationship dramas. Kokandy’s own press materials compare it to the company’s 2013 hit The Last Five Years, and Wythe’s musical was previously staged to great critical acclaim in 2009, in a production by an LLC at the Biograph. For people who old enough to have been married, or are in their late twenties and considering it, the show has obvious emotional resonance. In its current staging under the direction of John Glover, it also is surprisingly theatrical for that’s basically just two conversations.
The show depicts two couples: John (Neil Stratman) and Kat (Tina Naponelli), who are twenty-somethings on the eve of their wedding, and Jack (Carl Herzog) and Catherine (Teressa Lagamba), who are ten years older and plan to sign divorce papers the next day. The young couple is going through ordinary pre-nuptial nervousness, not only because of the impending change to their relationship, but also because this symbol of adulthood has forced them to reconsider their careers. Kat is giving up painting to dedicate herself fully to a publishing job, and says she’s glad to do so. John is waiting to hear back about a script he submitted, and takes the delay as a bad sign. It’s never stated what, exactly, is riding on his hopes for this, but it’s clear from Stratman’s performance that another rejection might be the breaking point for John in his aspirations to be a writer, at least at this point in his life.
Meanwhile, Jack and Catherine are working through complicated feelings directly focused on each other. Each accuses the other of being controlling and possessive, and their marriage was officially doomed when Jack declared he was having an affair, planned to continue it, and walked out the door. Catherine admits she would like to reconcile, but that’s not realistic at this point. There’s also the matter of their son: Catherine’s parenting style is to worry too much and stifle him, but she considers Jack to be reckless. Interlaced with their attempts to work out a civil parting is Kat’s discovery that she’s pregnant, and her uncertainty about how John will take the news, when they’re both already so nervous about their futures.
Though none of the songs from Tomorrow Morning have become famous, Glover’s cast does an excellent job capturing their spirit. Wythe’s music and lyrics are especially smart and buoyant in the early part of the show; we hear a tango, a meditation on nightmares about public speaking, and a declaration from Kat about her aspirations as a bride. Napnelli’s rendition of that pop anthem is a high point of the show, but all four performers have moments of brilliance, with Stratman contributing the most humor. The songs do get sappier and less distinct as the show goes on, but Herzog and Lagamba perform their parts with mature nuance, keeping their conflict engaging.
Ashley Ann Woods’s scenic design and Johnny Buranosky’s props are another major reason for this production of Tomorrow Morning’s successful emotional connection; each corner of the stage is believable as a separate person’s home. Credit should also go to Michael J. Patrick’s clear sound balance, and to Kory Danielson’s musical direction for mostly avoiding the pinging-style of piano playing and vocal pushing that so often mars chamber musicals. Tomorrow Morning is a show that works best for people who can look back on what it’s like to build a life with someone, but anybody can appreciate the quality of the production.
Reviewed July 11, 2016
This show has been Jeff recommended.
For more information, see Tomorrow Morning’s page on Theatre in Chicago.
Playing at Theater Wit, 1229 W Belmont Ave, Chicago. Tickets are $38; to order, call 773-975-8150 or visit kokandyproductions.com. Performances are Thursdays-Saturdays at 8:00 pm and Sundays at 3:00 pm through August 28. Running time is ninety minutes with no intermission.