“Certain girls are born to greatness. Others don’t know what their place is. But whether you’re Michelle Obama, or selling tickets at the Cinerama, the story lives inside of you, a tale in every life.”

Little did Morgan Farkas (not her real last name) realize when she invited former high school classmate Isaac Laskan (his real last name) to become her post-college roommate that her not-so-extraordinary life would become the inspiration for an hour-long chamber musical that’s taken Los Angeles by storm (or at least as much as any show running in a 30-seat theater can be said to take a big city by storm). 

With book and lyrics by Matthew Fogel and Laskin, and music by Fogel, Laskin, and David Richman, the mostly sung-through Hey, Morgan! lets us be flies on its title character’s wall from ages thirteen to thirty-two (and beyond) as we follow her from “Camp Echo” through high school in “The Tony Hills Of Brentwood” to “College Madness” at the University Of Michigan (with junior year spent abroad in Italy) to a post-graduation job at Hollywood’s prestigious Creative Artists Agency (better known as CAA). We also meet the boys-to-men in Morgan’s life, from her Camp Echo crush Steve, a brief dalliance with whom turned her into the “camp slut,” to Mark, whose you-know-what somehow found itself in Morgan’s mouth at a high school “House Party,” to aspiring screenwriter Joe, who became her first serious adult boyfriend until the day she happened to check his gmail account. (“Joe’s Lament”)

Under Matt Shakman’s spot-on direction, a perfectly cast Martha Marion brings Morgan to memorable life, from her ugly duckling childhood to her not quite swanlike adulthood, as boyishly winning narrator Laskin provides a running musical commentary on her life. Meagan English and Adam Shapiro, both terrific, play everyone in Morgan’s life, from her upper-middle-class Jewish parents, to her high school buddies, to the men and women who shape her young adulthood.

Distinctly Southern Californian in its references to Hillcrest Country Club, Encino, Gelsons, and the Grove (to name only a few local spots), Hey, Morgan! is also distinctly not for the kiddies. Take for example the title tune, which warns our heroine, “Hey Morgan, have a nice time in Miami. Don’t take your shirt off for any boy who wants to see your tits.” (To her credit, Morgan doesn’t.) “House Party” has everyone getting wasted as the entire football team pukes and pees in the Farkas family pool. Then there’s “Joe’s Lament,” with Joe guaranteeing a certain someone (not Morgan), “I’ll suck the milk out of your tits,” and that’s just for starters.

Still, it’s not the “mature content” that keeps audiences filling the Black Dahlia, but rather Hey, Morgan!’s inherent sweetness and heart as exemplified by the boy-next-door likeable Laskin, who savvily resists the temptation to insert himself in the story he’s chosen to tell us in song.

As for those songs, they make for an absolutely catchy bunch, which the cast have recorded on a bonus CD included in (and worth) the price of admission. Musical director Richman leads a sensational upstage band, which also includes Jon Lee, Mike Wendland, Sean Douglas, and Ryan Janke.

Visually, Hey, Morgan! is a treat as well, beginning with Courtney Miller Jr.’s lively choreography, particularly the rocking “House Party” and an infectious “Friday Night In Michigan.” Then there’s scenic designer Craig Siebels’ highly ingenious set, which surrounds audience and characters in rainbow-colored pulled-tight strings onto which are clipped memorabilia of the show’s 1992-2011 timeframe and mementos from Morgan’s personal memory book. Mike Dunst’s lighting design is aptly bright and colorful, E.B. Brooks’ costumes are a ‘90s/2000s delight, and David McKeever’s sound design mixes amped voices and musical instruments to perfection.

Gaalan Michaelson, Lauren Pasternack, and Jennifer Bendik are producers. Steven Barr is technical director, and Joanne Herrera choreographer. Bendik is stage manager and Kriss Meier assistant stage manager.

Short and sweet and utterly appealing, Hey, Morgan! kept me charmed from start to its surprisingly poignant final moments, that had me wiping a tear or two at their transcendent grace. Rarely has so much entertainment been packed in such a small but rewarding package.

Black Dahlia Theatre, 5453 West Pico Boulevard, Los Angeles.

–Steven Stanley
December 2, 2011
Photos: Daniel G. Lam

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