GLORY DAYS tonight
Posted by: Revned 02:43 am EST 02/13/24

Tonight I attended the one-night-only Keen Company benefit concert of GLORY DAYS, played for a nearly full house at Symphony Space.

Keen Company Artistic Director Jonathan Silverstein staged it simply, with the four actors standing at music stands; Lily Ling led an expert four-piece band in Van Hughes’s new arrangement of the score. As so often happens with rock musicals, the loud band often made it hard to understand the lyrics, but drove the show with exuberant energy.

This youthful work by Nick Blaemire and James Gardiner, which closed after seventeen previews and just one performance on Broadway in 2008, has apparently built up something of a cult following. It tells a slight story about four high school friends reuniting one night on their high school’s football field a year after graduating and attending different colleges; they consider a juvenile plot to get revenge on the football players who persecuted them when they were in high school, and end up doing some mutual soul searching when one of them comes out as gay and they begin to face the reality of how far they seem to have grown apart as friends, and how much they may still need to grow as individuals.

It's a big-hearted if understandably somewhat simplistic piece that Blaemire and Gardiner began writing when they were eighteen; it hit Broadway five years later. Callow indeed, but that’s part of its charm; much of the score is rousing and some of the numbers are poignant.

The fantastic cast made it all sound better than it is, giving their all to the harmonically challenging and rangy score. Jordan Dobson as Jack gave a tender account of the moving ballad in which he comes out to his friends. George Salazar was sharp and funny as the sometimes-cynical peacekeeper, Skip. Derek Klena looked and sounded stunning as the angry Andy, struggling with his own homophobia; he gave an honest and nuanced portrayal of the often less-than-sympathetic character. And in the central role of the vulnerable, sensitive Will, the staggeringly talented Colton Ryan gave another tour-de-force performance: playful, perceptive and precise with the acting, and bringing a dazzling range of moods and vocal colors to the songs, effortlessly loose and responsive to every nuance in the script and score. The four of them seemed to be having a great time together and really brought the relationships to life.

The audience was ecstatic. Gardiner and Blaemire, visibly moved, spoke briefly at the curtain call, and Silverstein announced that money raised would go towards producing a new commissioned musical by Adam Gwon. I was very happy to be there and experience this unique and joyful evening.

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