Ignition Theatre is offering a clever if slightly impassive antidote to the overblown, style-over-substance musicals of Andrew Lloyd Webber.
Edges, which opened Thursday night at The Matchbox, is about an intimate as a musical can be.
There’s no flashy costumes in this six-actor show by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, and no special effects.
But Edges deals with some weighty and funny subject matter that will seem especially topical if you’re a young person trying to make sense of your place in the world.
Even if you’re no longer young, Edges will take you back to that precipice at the edge of adulthood and make you remember how hard it was taking the leap — socially, romantically, and even personally. There’s both truth and social criticism behind these songs about facile Facebook friendships, commitment-phobia, hanging on to dreams, and just hanging with the guys.
Unlike a conventional musical, there’s no dialogue or on-going story-line in this show. The 15 tunes that make up this 75-minute production tend to ride on clever lyrics and universal sentiments about love, friendship, and self-identity. This works great when the intention of a song is to make people laugh, but less so when the point is making listeners feel something.
Most of the songs are really monologues set to music, and that’s both the strength and weakness of Edges.
Starting with the high points: Director Matt Grue got strong performances from the talented cast of Curtis Labelle, Richard Meen, Sabrina Notte-Hank, Alexandra Mihill, Chantel Hutchison and Spenser Pasman.
While none of the singer/actors plays a specific role, all were able to dramatize the songs. And plenty of memorable moments were created on a spartan but effective set by Patrick Beagan.
Meen got big laughs singing about his reaction to a recent break-up. With a chorus of “I hope you die,” the song In Short summarizes what everyone’s felt at one time or another about an ex-flame.
Meen, along with Labelle, and Pasman, nailed the brainless fun of hanging out with single male buddies in Pretty Sweet Day.
Notte-Hank and ensemble speared Facebook friendships in Be My Friend, and Meen and Mihill were sweetly funny as an emotionally timid couple singing I Hmmm You.
Much of the social commentary in Edges deals with how facile relationships have become. The trouble with singing about generalities like this, instead of about individuals dealing with specific situations, is that the songs don’t often pull your heart-strings.
Labelle, a thoroughly engaging performer, got to sing the two exceptions — I Once Knew and Part of a Painting, both rather touching tunes and the only ones with poetic lyrics.
But hearing Dispensable brought to mind how many thousands of more beautiful and stirring songs were written about the end of a relationship. And Coasting, about the shallow throw-away lines people feed each other, sounded rather like a throw-away song, itself.
Morgan McKee did double duty as music director and keyboardist, performing with drummer Chris Ridge and guitarist Dustin Clark. The trio did a fantastic job of backing the singers — too bad the melodies in Edges seemed to be of secondary importance to the writers.
But that happens when songs are all about the message.
Still, how can you resist lyrics like: “Please be my friend on Facebook,.. If you refuse, I’ll forget you exist, so be friend 505… It’s never cool to say no, so to socially survive, be friend 505…”
Maybe sometimes lyrics are enough when they are this entertaining.