The difficulty of putting together a musical revue is in tying the individual pieces together. Usually cabaret artists put in some patter between songs, often of the most banal variety. It is rare to see a revue that hangs together on subtext alone, but that was the peculiar achievement of The World of Bill Solly.
It helps to have a charming, youthful, talented, and energetic cast (Anthony Apicella, Allison Beck, Katy Frame, and Eric Schneider). These singer/actor/dancers not only sold a lot of songs, they acted out scenelets within and around the songs to give them dramatic context. These little stories sometimes lasted only seconds, and were often almost subliminal, but were sufficient to draw a laugh and point up a lyric. Igor Goldin gets the credit for putting the songs together and extracting their subtext, from conception to finished rehearsal.
The individual performers not only sang and danced, but created characters. Apicella's tousled boy-next-door balanced Schneider's more urbane slickness; Frame's sweet but fragile sexiness was matched by Beck's harder-edged sultriness. They also injected a lot of humor, both broad, as in "(Is your mother getting drunk in) Ireland Tonight?" and more subtle and sexy, in a song about eating cookies in bed. (There was an awful lot of artfully sexual subtext -- and text -- in this show.) While their voices displayed lots of strength and subtlety, there were a couple of apparent mishaps of intonation on subtly difficult unstressed intervals, but not so as to detract terribly from the overall effect.
Tim Herman's musical direction was heard but mostly not seen, given the position of the keyboard upstage right. The pacing of the songs was brisk, with a few letups for contrast and relief, and the singers for the most part attacked the music with confidence, relish, and panache.
The costumes were a complementary collection of modestly colorful casualwear that went well with the saturated, mostly primary colors of the Duplex's standard plot (including a small cyclorama that came up red at one point). There were a couple of pieces of what looked like wallpaper hanging about, which made no contribution to the overall visual effect. A wine bottle, a glass, and some cookies made up most of the complement of props.
This celebration of Bill Solly's songs "is the first in an ongoing series of revues [Musically Speaking:] celebrating the contributions of gay composers and lyricists." Solly's achievements include the 1975 Off-Broadway hit Boy Meets Boy, as well as numerous credits in Canada and the U.K. His songs, as showcased here, tend toward the uptempo and witty.
It can't be said often enough (so it might as well be said again) that theatergoers should all be thankful for the renascence three years ago of TOSOS (The Other Side Of Silence), the first professional gay theatre company, founded in 1974. The love, inspiration, and level of competence of TOSOS II are an inspiration to everyone working at this or any other level.
Directing/Musical Direction: 2
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Copyright 2004 John Chatterton