Ticketmaster Summer in Stages

Saved

Music and Lyrics by Michael Friedman, Book and Lyrics by John Dempsey and Rinne Groff
Playwright’s Horizons, New York City
(2008)

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Our former Edinburgh reviewer, Rachel Lynn Brody, has moved back to the United States and is now giving us the occasional taste of US theatre.

Forget begging for forgiveness; Saved is begging for a Broadway transfer. The power and punch packed into this musical adaptation of a popular teen film far outstrips its Times Square competition – and that’s in regards to both concept and cast ability.

Celia Keenan-Bolger lights up the stage from the word 'go' as Mary, while Mary Faber is just earnest enough as Hilary Faye (Tammy Faye Bakker reference, anyone?) to keep one guessing as to her character's true motives. Never having seen the film upon which Saved is based, I can’t say how true to the source material writers Friedman, Dempsey and Groff have stayed, but I can say that the play is pleasing in its complexity – rather than being strictly a send-up of the wide-eyed born-again Christian subculture, Saved shows off the underlying, approachable humanity of many of its characters. Interactions between characters are flawless and well paced (with perhaps too few of the light, peppy moments at which this team excels in act two), and a smattering of references to Facebook and iPhones keeps the dialogue feeling current – one does wonder how well this aspect will age.

Even if the book hadn’t been solid and the tunes hadn’t been catchy (both were), the cast’s voices would have still made this a show worth catching. From Keenan-Bolger to Faber, straight on through to the ‘adult’ influences (John Dossett as Pastor Skip and Julia Murney as Lillian), each number felt like it had popped straight off a soundtrack recording. With one momentary lapse early in Van Hughes’ (Patrick) opening number, when Hughes doesn’t quite keep up with the pumping energy of his castmates (don’t worry, he catches up later), the voices in this show uniformly outshine other current Broadway productions.

The only real problem with the show – and this occurred to me a number of times through the course of the performance – is that it is somehow too big for the Mainstage theatre at Playwright’s Horizons. One senses that this is a cast prepared for the challenge of filling a larger space; and one hopes they have the chance to prove it.

Reviewer: Rachel Lynn Brody