Reviewed by George Basler
Give Santino DeAngelo credit for ambition and boldness.
At the ripe age of 23, the Broome County native has taken on the daunting task of writing the music and lyrics for a Broadway-style musical, Another Happy Ending. He brought the musical to the Goodwill Theatre’s Schorr Family Firehouse Stage in Johnson City last week for a staged reading.
In doing so, DeAngelo and his collaborators were hoping to interest Broadway producers in taking the show to next step.
But, despite a clever premise and some tuneful songs, the musical still needs work before being ready for “prime time.” A main problem, at least from this perspective, is a flat and overly convoluted second act that rambles and goes on too long.
Another Happy Ending is a send-up of some Shakespearean comedies that, let’s face it, can seem opaque and not very funny to modern audiences. Plays such as The Tempest, As You Like It and A Midsummer’s Night Dream are mashed together in DeAngelo’s parody.
It’s a promising concept. Also interesting is the plot device of having a veteran clown and his idealist student tell the story while engaging in an impassioned debate about the nature of comedy and theater.
The music, at least to these ears, was the show’s strong point. DeAngelo’s songs are pretty sophisticated for a 23-year-old and reminded me of Stephen Sondheim in terms of mood and construction. They are catchy and filled with witty lyrics, and they were well performed by the eight-member cast in Johnson City.
The shortcoming is the book. The show starts promisingly enough, and the first act — except for a leaden, unfunny scene in a brothel — is pleasant enough.
But too often DeAngelo takes the lazy way out of relying on sophomoric, sexually-tinged humor, complete with gestures, to get cheap laughs. I like double entendres as well as the next person, but I began thinking Another Happy Ending should be renamed “Another Double Entendre.”
More problematic, the “blue” humor too often comes across as crass and crude, not fresh or inventive. It cheapens the whole production.
A second major issue is the second act in which the young lovers and other characters flee to the Forest of Arden. (This is a story-telling device in a lot of real Shakespearean comedies.)
Let’s put it this way: The characters get lost in the forest. The plot becomes way too meandering and talky. Worst yet, the songs — which are the show’s strength — disappear for long periods of time. So do the laughs.
Unfortunately, DeAngelo falls victim to the common malady of falling in love with his own words and trying to be too clever in parodying Shakespeare.
Mixed in, however, is a truly fine song. “The World Can Be Your Oyster” is a good “11 o‘clock number,” so named because it is written to climax a show. Unfortunately, Another Happy Ending goes on for about 20 minutes after this song.
Suggestions: Simplify the second act and cut out some of the “dead wood” dialogue, throw in a couple more songs in the second act and tone down the crude humor.
Another Happy Ending shows promise and ambition; however, further revision is needed for this nascent production.