Bob Goepfert Reviews "Beau" At Adirondack Theatre Festival
Glens Falls – There are musicals that entertain you. There are other shows that touch you emotionally. And, there are those shows that demand discussion on the way home.
“Beau,” a new and beautiful musical offered by Adirondack Theatre Company at the Wood Theatre in Glens Falls through August 9, does all three.
The musical numbers are fun to listen to, the story is insightful and moving, and the theme about a young man coming to terms with his identity begs to be talked about by every adult in the audience. Indeed, the perfect circumstance would be to have that conversation with a young person, preferably your own child.
Ace Baker has been raised by his single mother, Raven. She has told her son that the rest of their family is dead. They are alone in the world. At about 12 years old, he discovers his grandfather Beau is still alive and they bond. About the same time, Ace begins to realize he is gay.
Music is their portal. Beau is a cantankerous, gruff-but-kind type of guy nwho was a professional musician and had moderate success with his band, The Bell Bottoms.
He teaches his grandson to play the guitar and to believe in his own talents. Though Raven has been estranged from her father since before Ace was born, she permits Her son to spend every summer with Beau.
Their relationship is one of beauty. It’s tender and caring as the older man genuinely falls in love with his grandson. Ace comes to idolize Beau and accepts wisdom from a man he knows is flawed. Though Ace never discovers the reason for Raven’s dismissal of Beau from her life, it is revealed to the audience and suggests why the two men instinctively connect.
Over the course of several summers, both find the supportive family that they’ve been denied.
The brilliance of the book by Douglas Lyons is that it touches all the emotional hurts found in every coming of age story, but it avoids making Ace’s trials seem clichéd. The musical-drama never seems manipulative. This is a story rich in compassion, understanding and honesty.
The music, created by Lyons and Ethan D. Pakchar, is more than an escape from the potential dreariness of the story. It is always energetic and entertaining, but never meant as a distraction or a diversion. Every number has a purpose. The ballads are tender and lovely. You might not exit the theater singing one of the songs, but you will be tapping your feet inside the theater.
Performances are flawless as the cast members are also the musicians. Each actor creates a believable and usually quirky character, and blend together as a musical-acting ensemble. The action moves fluidly, thanks to the direction of Michael Wilson and choreographer Josh Rhodes.
If the theater gods are just, “Beau” will have a future with either regional theaters or Off-Broadway. If it does, the producers would be foolish to lose Matt Rodin, who brings an enormous sense of vulnerability to Ace. Rodin is an engaging actor who also has a strong presence as a singer. He participates in 9 of the 11 songs, which helps you believe his path from being an insecure kid to a rock star. It is truly an indelible portrait of an unforgettable character.
Since, at its essence, this is a love story between a young man and his grandfather, you have to have a strong actor in the role of Beau. That actor at ATF is the marvelous Jeb Brown, who can show love while seeming distant. Brown shows remarkable balance in making the tough Beau as damaged as he is strong.
Indeed, one of the many beauties within “Beau” is the way the title character rescues himself and he teaches Ace to save himself.
“Beau” is a special show that demands an audience. It continues at Adirondack Theatre Festival in Glens Falls through August 9. For tickets call 518-480-4878 or go to ATFestival.org
Bob Goepfert is theater reviewer for the Troy Record.
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