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New musical, ‘A Little More Alive’ premieres at Kansas City Repertory Theatre

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"A Little More Alive" at Kansas City Repertory Theatre

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Kansas City Repertory Theatre opened the world premiere musical, “A Little More Alive,” April 18, on the Copaken Stage to a sold out crowd, anxious to view the new production, with the show looking to build strength and gain forward motion.

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Eric Rosen, artistic director for the Rep chose the new musical to continue the Rep’s tradition of presenting new shows that hope to develop footing and a following as they grow. The new musical falls into the directorial hands of Tony Nominee Sheryl Kaller “(Next Fall,” “Mothers and Sons”) and features book, music and lyrics by Nick Blaemire (“Glory Days”). The show is being produced by Kansas City Repertory Theatre through special arrangement with Hunter Arnold and TBD Theatricals.

“A Little More Alive,” continues on the Copaken Stage in the H&R Block building in downtown Kansas City. The show runs through May 11.

According to press notes, "A Little More Alive" is described as a “captivating new pop musical, in which two estranged brothers reunite at their mother’s funeral. An unexpected discovery upends every memory they have – and it becomes their mission to learn the truth about their family; but, along the way, Nate and Jeremy find that no one is exempt from the gray area between right and wrong.”

The cast is: Daniel Jenkins (“Angels in America”) as Gene Fuller; Van Hughes (“American Idiot”) as Nate Fuller; Michael Tacconi (“Bare”) as Jeremy Fuller; Lindsay Mendez (“Dogfight”) as Lizzie; Kayla Foster (“Spring Awakening”) as Molly.

The production features a great set that allows for action to occur on three levels of a house. The set also splits to add other elements for additional scenes. The concept and use of space is wonderful and allows the actors to interact and move freely from one space to another. The sound and lighting were very good and video projection was a unique way to tell parts of the back story of the show.

The show contains great voices and good performances by a very talented cast. All of the characters possess great stage presence and fantastic singing voices. But, the show’s music just does not allow each character to perform a signature piece that cements their character with the audience or display their vocal abilities. Some of the song pieces allow for three or four of the actors to unite in a beautiful harmony.

“A Little More Alive” is a musical, but the show would work best as a play. “A Little More Alive” needs a more dynamic story line to support a musical format. The show reaches for the newer realm of musical theatre, as opposed to the older, musical-comedy format. The show is about darker themes and personal pains that need to heal.

The theme is a downer of a soul-search piece where family dysfunction rears its ugly head after the mother dies. From the days after her funeral, the piece chugs along with characters that just do not seem real or connected. Slowly, the characterizations begin to define their places in the mix, but these are not associations or situations one would relate to after a funeral.

Opening night did not spark with electricity or excitement. After pre-show announcements, about three minutes of silence followed while the audience waited for an actor to step on stage. That was awkward and signaled a major problem.

Act II started just as awkwardly. House lights were still up and the audience was still talking, standing, and moving when an actor walked on stage, saying nothing. House lights faded the set opened, and from nowhere, an actor appeared, bursting into song. It just seemed out of place and not well designed.

Give a lot of credit to the actors who worked hard to make the piece work. Their acting was good and strong throughout. Their voices sang the score with precision. The weakness was that the piece did not give them a lot of character development or change. They were not able to make the audience come into their character.

According to the KC Rep, the production had musical supervision and orchestration by Jesse Vargas, musical direction by Cian McCarthy, lighting design by Jeff Croiter and Cory Pattak, sound design by Nevin Steinberg, scenic design by Wilson Chin, and costume design by Alison Heryer. All of these elements of the show were strong.

Sometimes a new show signals promise. Sometimes a new show signals “Hit.” Sometimes a show just needs work. “A Little More Alive” needs work to move forward. The overall piece seemed unfinished and unpolished. The end was abrupt and the show felt like pieces were missing.

The title suggests an upbeat story and does not convey the darkness of the piece. The title signifies a ray of hope, but that message does not come through strongly enough.

"A Little More Alive" runs April 11-May 11, 2014 at Kansas City Rep’s Copaken Stage, located at 13th and Walnut streets in Kansas City, MO. Ticket prices range from $20 for students to $29-$59 for adults. For ticket and performance information, call the Rep Box Office at 816-235-2700 or visit: www.KCRep.org For group ticket sales, please call 816-235-6122.

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