Cupcake: a new musical
Book by Bradley Seeman, Music by Michael Wartofsky, Lyrics by David Reiffel, Directed by Guy Ben-Aharon, Music Direction by Michael Wartofsky; Set/Properties Design, Ronald J. DeMarco; Costume Design, Alana Jayne Frutkoff; Lighting Design, Larry Sousa; Sound Design, David Reiffel; Stage Manager, Jeff Kubiatowicz
CAST: Hallie Brevetti (Librarian), Mark Linehan (Officer Stone), Grant MacDermott (Tom), Karen MacDonald (Real Estate Agent, Others), Max Sangerman (Lifeguard)
Performances through June 24 by GBA Productions at Club Café, 209 Columbus Avenue, Boston, MA; Box Office 617-536-0966 or www.clubcafe.com
A mild spring evening in the backroom cabaret space of Club Café in Boston's south end is the right time and the right place for the world premiere of Cupcake, a new musical from a trio of Boston-based friends and collaborators. Bradley Seeman (book), Michael Wartofsky (music), and David Reiffel (lyrics) were inspired by a headline in the Provincetown Banner in the summer of 2010 to write an original musical about a baker who sells his irresistible cupcakes on the streets of "Summertown," his adoring customers, and the Keystone Cop who tracks his scent.
What Cupcake has going for it is a strong local grounding, a delightfully eclectic score sung by lovely voices, and an overall sensibility of fun delivered with enthusiasm by its cast of talented youngsters and the inimitable Karen MacDonald. Grant MacDermott is endearing and innocent as Tom, everybody's sugar daddy; Mark Linehan is a comic Javert, single-mindedly hunting him down for violating the law prohibiting street sales of food; and songbirds Hallie Brevetti and Max Sangerman play on opposing teams, each hoping to win Tom's affections. Playing at least four roles, MacDonald is constantly on and off the stage, making quick costume changes, rolling out a range of accents representing diverse demographics, and pretty much stealing the show.
Presenting Cupcake in the intimate (99 seats) cabaret space results in a feeling of inclusion and indicates the desire for audience interaction. There are a couple of occasions when one of the actors roams around among the tables, as well as moments of winking eye contact between a character and the patronS. MacDonald's main character sits on a stool center stage chatting up the audience prior to performing her torch song "Lament of the Real Estate Agent," reminiscent of a genuine cabaret act. I don't think it would work in a more traditional theater, but Cupcake is not really intended to be seen as a traditional musical.
That being said, it is a book musical and the songs both advance the narrative and develop character. In "I've Got a Crush," the Lifeguard and the Librarian make their feelings for Tom known, and the Judge warns him in gospel style ("Judge's Ruling") not to get caught again peddling his wares. However, Seeman's book is to a fully-realized libretto what a cupcake is to a three-layer cake; it addresses a need for a storyline, but doesn't satisfy a craving for a plot with a bit more heft. Once Tom lets it be known which team he plays on, the rebuffed suitor hooks up with Officer Stone, and everyone lives happily ever after, brought together by their mutual love of cupcakes.
Director Guy Ben-Aharon and Music Director Wartofsky on piano keep the pace light and lively. Summertown is illustrated as a colorful seaside hamlet by Ronald J. DeMarco's painted set pieces showing beach umbrellas, a lighthouse, and a Gingerbread-style house, and he also makes good use of properties to suggest a beach blanket scene and an offshore boating encounter. Alana Jayne Frutkoff's costume design makes it easy to distinguish among the characters played by MacDonald (realtor, softball player, tourist, and judge), and dresses the Librarian in a simple summer frock, and the Lifeguard in bathing trunks and a whistle. Larry Sousa is the lighting designer and Reiffel handles sound design.