Longtime friends reunite in New York City for the wedding of Taylor and Zac in Will Collyer & Pamela Eberhardt’s highly promising new musical Right Together, Left Together … if only an impending hurricane and the tiny matter of Zac’s possible same-sex leanings don’t get in the way.

253017_10151423306714197_1764387055_n A cleverly staged opening montage has Taylor (Jeni Incontro) and Zac (Tripp Pettigrew) meeting cute at a wedding she has crashed, exchanging apartment keys, and making their own plans to walk down the aisle.

Before long, news of Taylor and Zac’s impending nuptials has Ryan (Lucas Alifano), Ashley (Emily Clark), and Paul (Bob Simpson) reminding Taylor that as a married woman, she’ll soon need to be saying “Farewell” to her life as a “fag hag,” with only Ashley remaining to uphold the time-honored tradition of women who love being around men who love doing it with men.

Also along for the wedding party ride are Taylor’s half-brother Dave (Jeff Scot Carey) and a pregnant—and about to pop—wedding planner named Allison (Katrina Rennells).

It doesn’t take long for it to become clear that the one-sided feelings sung about by Paul and Dave in “Proposition Unrequited Love” may well be the order of the day for all concerned, with Paul yearning for the affianced Taylor, Dave carrying a torch for dizzy blonde Ashley, and Zac having a hard time resisting those carnal urges around his fiancée’s gay best friend Ryan, happily coupled with the never seen Jack, who’s minding the home front in sunny California.

47010_526254040752564_1050968130_n Eberhardt’s book, though still in need of work, is a fun and funny one, and the characters she has created are folks we enjoy being around and getting to know. Lyricist Eberhardt and composer Collyer have written songs which advance the plot, allow us to know each character better, and fit the contemporary musical theater model of similarly New York-set shows like [title of show], I Love You Because, and Ordinary Days.

Right Together, Left Together’s current two-week run is but the latest step in the process of bringing a new musical to fruition, beginning with a pair of staged readings in New York in 2009 and 2010 and continuing with a book-in-hand Hollywood workshop also in 2010. Though its current six-performance run and barest-bones set design suggest a work still in progress, performances and staging are every bit as strong as one might expect in a more fully designed, longer run production.

Director Nicole Dominguez elicits sharply etched portraits from her first-rate cast and keeps the pacing swift. Notwithstanding, RTLT runs at least twenty minutes longer than optimal for an intimate, seven-character chamber musical.


What works quite wonderfully already is this production’s terrific young cast, four of whom have been with Right Together, Left Together in various of its previous incarnations, the remaining three of whom are new to the show and to this reviewer as well.

The excellent Incontro, who originated the role of Taylor in RTLT’s first two New York readings, creates a real, three-dimensional contemporary woman faced with the possibility that her marriage just might not be the made-in-heaven matrimony she’d like it to be.

Clark and real-life hubby Simpson have been with Right Together, Left Together since its second NYC reading, and as both are longtime StageSceneLA favorites and Scenie winners (Simpson has two Best Actor Scenies and Clark two in the Best Ensemble category), it’s a thrill to see them sharing a stage once again. No one plays quirky blonde with more panache and pizzazz than Clark, and Simpson is as always a dynamic stage presence, this time as unrequited love victim Paul.

150701_10151427551644197_1275596650_n Alifano joined RTLT in its 2010 Hollywood staged reading, and it’s hard to imagine a more likeable Ryan than the one Alifano creates, or one more believable in his commitment to a left-behind-in-L.A. spouse, to whom Ryan dedicates his “Discovered,” a terrific showcase for Alifano’s rich, resonant pipes.

Like Alifano, Pettigrew and Carey are what we call “finds,” the former digging deep into the confused soul of a man whose desires may not be the same as his wants, the latter a charismatic scene-stealer as devil-may-care Dave. Carey lucks out with a pair of show-stopping duets, the jazzy “Proposition Unrequited Love” opposite Simpson, and the fun and frisky “Flirting” opposite Clark. As for Pettigrew, the L.A. theater newcomer gets to stop the show himself with his big, powerfully performed 11 o’clock solo “Brilliant.”

Last but not least, there’s the vivacious Rennells, new to RTLT but not to StageSceneLA, stepping out of the ensemble to play sassy wedding guru Allison, so committed to planning the perfect ceremony that she gives not a moment’s thought to her water breaking—or to bringing a day-old infant to work.

644435_10151435480269197_923414469_n Though cuts are recommended, they ought not to include the sensational Act One finale “Black And White,” which has the entire cast harmonizing as each darts longing glances at the object of his or her unrequited or secret passion. “Calm Down” is another winner, with Ryan giving said advice to an Ashley who doesn’t have it in her repertoire to “calm the fuck down.” And then there’s the gang’s salute to “The Big Day,” an oh so clever pastiche that references wedding songs from My Fair Lady, Fiddler On The Roof, and Company. Finally, the “Discovered” reprise that ends the show could be improved upon only by finding a way for all seven cast members to be onstage for the grand finale. And as long as I’m making suggestions, how about turning that show-opening montage into a song?

Besides finding ways to cut its running time down to a more suitable two hours max (including intermission), book writer Eberhardt could make it much clearer from the get-go how each character is related to each other character. Where did these people meet and how long have they known each other? How is it that both Ashley and Taylor have become “fag hags,” and since they both love spending their time amongst the gays, how come there’s only one out gay man in their entourage? Though it’s mentioned that Dave is Taylor’s half brother, I couldn’t figure out how Paul entered the picture? And speaking of Paul, early on he’s told he has to pretend to be gay (the reason for which was given so quickly that I missed it), a plot point that gets dropped since Paul never does play gay, until it’s suddenly brought up late in Act Two. Finally, (and skip to the next paragraph if you wish to avoid a spoiler) Zac’s internalized homophobia and his emphatic denials that he is anything but straight make his “Brilliant” less a liberating coming-out statement than the words of a still deeply conflicted young man—and not the best way to bid adieu to this character.

Still, despite these quibbles, it’s hard not to cheer a musical which has you liking every character and enjoying every minute of the time you spend with them, even if those minutes may end up a tad too many in number.

Keyboardist Graham Jackson and drummer Brian Boyce provide expert live musical backup to Collyer and Eberhardt’s eclectic lineup of songs. Carmen Dominguez is music consultant. The bare-bones set—furniture on a blackbox stage—looks considerably less bare thanks to Nick Saiki’s topnotch lighting design. Uncredited costumes are nice personality fits for each character.

Right Together, Left Together is produced by Clark and Incontro for The Unknown Artists. Cody Clark is stage manager.

Creating a new musical may well be the longest of any theatrical process, a five-to-seven-year trajectory from reading to workshop to preview to production being not all that uncommon. While not quite there yet, Right Together, Left Together is well on its way to becoming a show that could make it to New York and on to regional theaters looking to attract that much sought-after younger demographic. And isn’t that something to sing about?

GTC Burbank, 1111-b West Olive Avenue, Burbank. Through March 2.

–Steven Stanley
February 28, 2013

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