Review: ‘The Lonely Few’ musical rocks Geffen Playhouse

The Geffen Playhouse’s intimate Audrey Skirball Kenis Theater has been remodeled right into a dive bar for the world premiere musical “The Lonely Few.” Tables and chairs have been arrange within the taking part in space to immerse a portion of the viewers within the raucous, boozy ambiance of a Kentucky roadhouse.

The Lonely Few is the title of the band that jams at Paul’s Juke Joint. Front girl Lila (Lauren Patten), who by day works as a clerk on the native Save-A-Lot, is just too proficient to be trapped on this backwater. But she feels unable to go away her older brother, Adam (Joshua Close), an amiable duffer with a substance abuse drawback.

Lila and Adam have taken care of one another ever since their mom died. Lila has massive desires for herself, however she values loyalty greater than success. To keep sane, she releases her pent-up frustration at her gigs, the place her livid guitar taking part in, highly effective vocals and introspective songwriting torch the on a regular basis drabness of her life with a Dionysian flame.

On considered one of these events, a particular visitor seems on the bar. Amy (Ciara Renée), a Black singer-songwriter who’s testing the waters of a solo profession, turns up one night time on the invitation of Paul (Thomas Silcott), her former stepfather, who’s not solely the proprietor but additionally the Lonely Few’s drummer. Amy acknowledges immediately that Lila isn’t any strange singer. She additionally sees that they’ve one thing else in widespread as lesbian rockers within the illiberal South.

A love story comes into meteoric focus on this musical, which encompasses a e book by Rachel Bonds and a rating by Zoe Sarnak. Two ladies who’re hooked up to their cultural roots but alienated by the conservative values of their communities maintain for one another the reply to issues that till now have appeared insuperable.

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Lila, eager for freedom, is in want of a approach out. Amy, hungry for belonging, is in want of a approach in. But the course of real love by no means did run clean, as Shakespeare memorably put it. And the marginalization of being queer will solely compound the obstacles to a doable joyful ending for these characters.

Stage actors are sometimes known as upon to play well-known rock stars in jukebox musicals, which depend on an viewers’s affection for common music catalogs. “The Lonely Few” makes its forged members earn their rock-and-roll stripes.

There’s no cowl band medley of previous hits to win over stressed viewers members, so the performers must forged their very own incandescent spell when jamming. The manufacturing — fluidly directed by Trip Cullman and Ellenore Scott on a set by Sibyl Wickersheimer that makes imaginative use of unsuspecting corners of the Geffen Playhouse’s second stage — is lucky to have two gifted singers main the cost.

Patten gained a Tony Award for her featured efficiency in “Jagged Little Pill,” the Alanis Morissette and Diablo Cody musical by which she delivered a model of “You Oughta Know” that usually introduced the home down. (The function was the topic of some controversy associated to the manufacturing’s dealing with of the gender identification of Patten’s character.) Lila’s musical type is eclectic, mixing the mercurial emotionalism of Morissette’s music with Melissa Etheridge’s traditional rock authority. Patten makes Broadway virtuosity completely appropriate with roadhouse authenticity.

Renée has astonishing vocal agility that may sweep into the higher vary from the decrease depths. Her singing is nearly too good, however then she’s taking part in a famous recording artist whose stardom could be higher if it weren’t for society’s close-mindedness. She endows Amy with the melancholy radiance of an artist who’s struggling to clear an unbiased path.

Ciara Renée and Thomas Silcott in “The Lonely Few” at Geffen Playhouse.

(Jeff Lorch / Geffen Playhouse)

The total forged is terrific, with every function etched with engaging idiosyncrasy. As Adam, Close honors the disarming generosity that makes it so laborious for Lila to desert her brother. Silcott’s Paul exhibits himself to be a person who needs to rectify his previous lapses, and this integrity involves the fore as Paul and Amy dig into the issues of their historical past.

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Helen J Shen performs JJ, the precocious 17-year-old keyboardist within the Lonely Few, in a approach that accentuates the character’s wacky ambition with out shedding sight of the teenager’s preternatural sensitivity. In the function of Dylan, a bandmate, buddy and booster of Lila’s, Damon Daunno (a Tony nominee for his efficiency as Curly in Daniel Fish’s revival of “Oklahoma!”) creates a dorky charmer wanting to hitch a experience to the large time whilst he is aware of he’ll must get off quickly and face his duties at dwelling.

The galvanizing singing, ingenious staging and charming appearing can’t fully cowl up the musical’s chief drawback — uneven storytelling. It is likely to be tempting to put the blame on Bonds’ e book, which has some cliched dialogue, predictable plot factors and acquainted confrontation scenes. Weirdly, for a contemporary musical a few lesbian couple, the writing harks again to the sentimental ways of an earlier, extra typical period. (Playwright William Inge’s characters, determined to seek out connection in unfavorable provincial circumstances, have a shocking quantity in widespread with “The Lonely Few” gang.)

Lauren Patten and Joshua Close in "The Lonely Few" at Geffen Playhouse.

Lauren Patten and Joshua Close play siblings in “The Lonely Few,” directed by Trip Cullman and Ellenore Scott.

(Jeff Lorch / Geffen Playhouse)

But the fault doesn’t lie solely with the e book. It’s the connection between the drama and the music that’s off-kilter.

Sarnak’s lyrics are sometimes drowned out within the manufacturing’s sound quantity, irritating those that anticipate the songs of a musical to advance the story. But not the entire audible lyrics shed significant mild on the characters, and some create leaps within the motion that don’t appear totally earned.

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The present’s rhythm, consequently, is derailed. The songs develop in lyrical curiosity within the second act, however the storytelling drags, particularly within the extended remaining stretch. “Wondering” superbly exposes Amy’s vulnerability and “Always Wait for You” movingly expresses Lila’s romantic realization, however the psychological context and theatrical deployment of those numbers might use some tinkering.

“The Lonely Few” cries out for readability and compression. But it’s an endearing new musical with some untapped potential. Love tales, even queer ones, can’t assist being a bit of old style at their core. But this one nonetheless has extra originality to find.

 ‘The Lonely Few’

Where: Geffen Playhouse, Audrey Skirball Kenis Theater, 10886 Le Conte Ave., L.A.

When: 8 p.m. Tuesdays-Fridays, 3 and eight p.m. Saturdays and a couple of and seven p.m. Sundays. (Check for schedule adjustments.) Ends April 30.

Tickets: Start at $59

Info: (310) 208-2028 or

Running time: 2 hours, 20 minutes (with one intermission)