The Next Big Thing

It’s 1983, and 17-year-old Chip (Brandon Ruckdashel) coerces high school friends Robert (Jason Director) and Mickey (Mike Thompson) into starting a garage band. His bandmates’ musical inexperience doesn’t worry the starry-eyed Chip, who immediately begins auditioning girl singers. The boys get lucky and find the immensely talented Kim (Matisha Baldwin), thereby increasing their chance to play an elite gig: a postprom party hosted by superpopular, big-haired Cyndi (Heather Belling). While all seems to be going well for the band, Chip’s mother, Melissa (Missy Gibson), bombards her son with negative criticism. Less a has-been than a never-was, Melissa carries a grudge against the entire music industry, particularly her former manager Tom (Curt Bonnem), who — naturally — signs Chip’s band. With book by Jeff Favre, the characters are compelling, as are some of Gibson and Mike Flanagan’s lyrics, but most of Gibson and Flanagan’s music sounds like recycled Hall and Oates. Sharell Martin’s fabulous period costumes give this musical comedy the production’s best representation of the 1980s. Under Flanagan’s musical direction, Ellen D. Williams, as Melissa’s lesbian lover, delivered the evening’s strongest vocal performance. As directed by Favre and Rachel Maize, Gibson strikes a rather one-note performance in comparison to Ruckdashel, who demonstrates immense stage presence through quicksilver facial expressions and a dazzling smile. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Starts: July 19. Continues through Aug. 16, 2008


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