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“Traffic & Weather” A Concept Musical Filled With Potential At Adirondack Theatre Festival

The cast of Traffic and Weather
Jim McLaughlin
The cast of Traffic and Weather

“Traffic & Weather,’ a musical offering being given its world premiere by Adirondack Theatre Festival, is a difficult work to define.

Because all the songs in the musical are taken from an album of the same name, created by the band Fountains of Wayne, it has elements of a rock concert. However, since the songs are all extremely narrative in nature, when offered on stage with actors interpreting the characters who are described through song, it seems like a juke box musical.

Neither description fits. Because the lyrics of songs are portrayed, it’s more than a concert and since the show lacks a through line, it isn’t truly a musical in the traditional sense of the term.

Right now, “Traffic & Weather” is essentially a concept piece. Though very short (it runs about 45-minutes) it is an exciting work. The presentation is filled with talented performers who display boundless energy as they romp through songs that are fun to listen to.

Adding to the enjoyment, it is offered in a visually stimulating way and supported by a super four-piece band located on stage.

However, as good as it is, you leave the show wanting more. That doesn’t mean unsatisfied. What you get is a high-quality experience. It just isn’t complete.

The best way to approach the ATF presentation is to think of it as attending a workshop of a musical offering that is rich with potential.

The key to “Traffic & Weather” is the clever and fully complete stories created in song by Adam Schlesinger. He had a gift for creating songs that made comic the frustrations of daily life. Sadly, he was an early victim of COVID, passing away from complications of the disease in April, 2020. He was only 52.

Schlesinger’s talent for creating witty little musical tales are brought to amazing life by the imaginative staging of Martha Banta, who directed and developed the concept of the show. Choreographer Monica Kapoor deserves equal credit for the non-stop motion of the cast, including set changes.

That the visual aspects of the production never overpower the music itself is a credit to music director Gary Adler, who leads the excellent band on the keyboards and whose arrangements add to the theatricality of the songs.

Though the production values of the show are near-perfect, the material must expand if the show is to have a longer life.

The energy level is exciting but relentless. “Someone to Love” introduced by two television newscasters report on a story about two potential lovers, with apartments across from each other, who keep passing in the night. When at show’s end that number is combined with the title song it becomes an unexpected, gleeful close to a night filled with crossed connections and miscommunications.

In between, there are many memorable moments. You are thrilled when the males in the cast offer the ode to automobiles with “92 Subaru.” When the entire cast unites for “New Routine” it’s a special moment.

There are several two-person numbers that are slower paced and often ironically funny, but when Natalie Gallo takes the stage alone for the plaintiff “I-95” you realize how little serenity or individual emotion has been offered in 10 of the 11 songs in the show.

Schlesinger’s songs are observational. He has a quirky and sensitive way of looking at life that reflects the oddity of everyday living and the difficulty of making emotional connections with another person. But seldom does a single character get to express those feeling in a heartfelt way.

Throughout the show we know what these people are going through, but rarely do we know them on a personal level.

Whether it be by adding other songs, developing clearer characters with a personal point of view, or just adding a connecting through line, the show demands a device that will invite the audience into the lives of the people on stage and connect the individual numbers into a satisfying whole.

If you visit the Charles Wood Theatre in Glens Falls by August 7, you will be awed by talent and creativity.

Besides Gallo, the other four leads, Trevor Strader, Thomasina Petrus, Sam Harvey and Stanley Martin and all the supporting cast members are dynamic performers, all filled with passion for the material. They are also unselfish performers who appear in numbers without having any lines, yet add to the moment without detracting from the intent of the scene.

If “Traffic & Weather” is a musical with potential in the future, members of the cast are all potential stars of the future.

“Traffic & Weather” is special in a unique way. If you’re looking to attend a fully-developed Broadway hit, it probably isn’t for you. But if you enjoy being part of a genuine theatrical experience call 518-480-4878 or go to atfestival.org. It runs through Saturday.

Bob Goepfert is theater reviewer for the Troy Record.

The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the views of this station or its management.