The enormous effort involved in creating a musical is nothing to sneeze at. The hard work Kevin Cirone has put into his new musical, CREATIVE LICENSE (@ Davis Square Theatre through Aug. 2nd) shines through in the ingenious songs (lyrics by Cirone, music by Kevin Cirone and Spencer Elliott, with additional music by the show’s music director, Dan Rodriguez). The songs in CREATIVE LICENSE build character: Sometimes they shout it out so audaciously that you really do leave the theater humming. Case in point is a spectacular nose to nose confrontation song (“Delusional”), where the leads insult each other with glorious rhymes.
The story melds a “Hey, kids. Let’s put on a show” plot with the BoHo (and rock) sensibility of RENT. The twenty-somethings in CREATIVE LICENSE want more than “mere survival.” They want to “create.” Curiously, rather than building suspense over the course of the musical, each crisis in Cirone’s script is quickly followed by a solution in the next scene. ‘Can they stave off foreclosure of the family bar?’ is answered immediately with ‘We’ll put on a show to raise the money.’ Then ‘Where do we find backers for the show?’ is solved post haste when the heroine unearths a slew of willing investors. (Who knew it was that easy!) This stop/start pattern of quick resolution for the characters’ problems works against a fluid, accumulating momentum for the piece. (It’s something to do with the “law of physics,” to borrow from one of Cirone’s extremely clever lines.)
This is only CREATIVE LICENSE’s first (professional) outing and in developmental theater, it takes a village, as they say. Let’s get back to those lovely songs. There’s the resonant anthem for the show, “What Are We Here For?” …and a shimmering “This is Not That Story” delivered by Michael Levesque as the hero and playwright of the play within the play. (Coincidentally Levesque brought his brooding leading man charisma to RENT a few seasons ago.)
Ashley Levesque has a sensational show stopper in the sexy, take-no-prisoners “Give Your Love To Me” although she’s not the romantic match for Levesque’s writer (which wasn’t evident until the end, I’m sorry to say). Sarah Leary is the gal he can’t live with/or without. She has the powerful reprise of “Take That Away.” Kevin Groppe as the forgetful professor gets a touching song about dementia, “More and More I’m Less and Less.” (By the by, I wasn’t clear how he beat the brain robbing disease.)
In a romantic subplot, Varsha Raghavan and David Lucey get to be “Flying High” on the expectation of love. Kudos to the band for some righteous rock (without overpowering the singers). Ross Brown makes the most of his role as barkeep/everyone’s confidant and best of all, he gets to star in the musical within the musical—which is a side-splitting Monty Pythonesque send-up of the Scottish play with hilarious, over the top choreography by Rachel Bertone.