Chicago Theatre Review
Time Heals Everything
Tomorrow Morning – Kokandy Productions
A span of nine years separates the stories and characters in British author/composer Laurence Mark Wythe’s musical about relationships. Originally presented in two acts, first in 2006 in London, and three years later at Chicago’s Greenhouse Theater (where it won the Jeff Award for Best Musical), director John Glover has smartly tightened up his production and condensed it to a satisfying 90-minute one act. Considered by many to be part of that sub-genre of musical theatre called a song cycle, Wythe’s work isn’t a new story but, with its unique plot twist, plays out with a fresh, original energy.
Other playwrights have written musicals about romance and marriage, sometimes including how even a loving union can fall apart. Shows such as “I Do, I Do,” “Romance, Romance,” “The Last Five Years,” “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change,” and even “The Fantasticks” are just a few examples of musicals that’ve dealt with courtship, marriage and divorce. But Wythe’s musical is novel in that we experience two seemingly distinct stories unfolding simultaneously. Kat and John are entering into marriage, albeit amid certain qualms and complications; Catherine and Jack, we learn, are about to sever their ties in divorce. We meet and get to know these two couples the night before both events are to occur: Tomorrow Morning. Between some sparse dialogue, musical soliloquies, duets or dialogues and even quartets express primarily through music the hopes, dreams, uneasiness and angst buried inside these four individuals.
John Glover, so skilled at depicting close, personal relationships on stage, with his trademark sensitive guidance and direction, has deftly staged this pocket musical up-close-and-personal. The audience feels almost part of the production sitting, as they are, so close to the performers. As such, not a note or lyric, not a word or the arching of an eyebrow escapes our notice. With the younger couple’s apartment and bedroom on one side of the playing area, and the older couple’s two separate residences connected directly next door, or so it seems, the audience finds themselves seated closer to one couple or the other throughout. As such, theatergoers may become more attached to one pair of characters, but the dynamics often shift and change, allowing each actor to constantly be visible to everyone.
The first thing audiences notice when they enter the venue is the four characters busying themselves in their respective spaces within Ashley Ann Woods creative scenic design, generously adorned by Johnny Buranosky’s meticulous furnishings and properties. Then we hear the opening strains of Wythe’s lush, score, played with artistry by resident musical director Kory Danielson.
Finally we’re treated to the performances of the four actors. Tina Naponelli, a new talent to the Chicago area, is pretty and girlish as young Kat, a professional, who has all but given up her passion for art in order to pursue a career in the business world. Because of a need for economy with their upcoming wedding, she’s settled for a less-than-flattering, budget-friendly wedding gown. It is, after all, a dress she’ll only wear once. Neil Stratman, who audiences have enjoyed recently in several area productions, is strong and a perfect fit as John. As the screenwriter hoping to make his fortune selling his first big script, just before his wedding day, John receives some life-changing information only hours before taking his vows, which he has yet to write. Both actors have impressive, gorgeous voices and all the requisite chemistry to make this union believable.
Having left an indelible mark with his Jeff Award-nominated debut at Theo Ubique, Carl Herzog impresses again here as Jack. Aching with anger and remorse, this young actor plays this role with heart and empathy. He’s a man who realizes his mistakes too late, but can see no way to make amends. Catherine is played with unbridled passion, pride and frustrated anguish by talented Teressa LaGamba. With her big voice, she rips every drop of emotion out of her numbers and lays it out there, where all can see and hear. She and Herzog make a great couple, forever in turmoil, but their finest moment comes when John finds their lost son, Adam, and gently comforts his distraught soon-to-be ex-wife. It’s in this scene that we discover the Jack and Catherine they once were, and we love them and cheer for them.
This sublime, contemporary work, by a talented new voice in musical theatre, is Kokandy’s latest, exquisite production. Composer and playwright Laurence Mark Wythe’s heartwarming and earnest song cycle impresses all over again, especially as performed, directed and supported by this entire talented Chicago company. Singles will find this musical an enjoyable date night entertainment, while married couples will no doubt recognize many telling moments from their own lives. There’s also a clever twist to Wythe’s story that bears close attention, and will surprise even the most seasoned theatergoer. It’s in this fresh, new story of love, marriage and how time heals everything that’ll reward adult audiences night after night.
Reviewed by Colin Douglas
Presented July 9-August 28 by Kokandy Productions at Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont Ave., Chicago.
Tickets are available in person at the box office, by calling them at 773-975-8150 or by going to www.kokandyproductions.com.
Additional information about this and other area productions can be found by visiting www.theatreinchicago.com.