Room for im­prove­ment in clichéd mu­si­cal

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - ENTERTAINMENT - By Kevin Prokosh

RA Rock Ro­mance is one of those pro­duc­tions that re­minds you of bet­ter mu­si­cals but is eas­ily for­got­ten it­self.

The fa­mil­iar-op­po­sites-at­tract sto­ry­line cen­tres on a fame-hun­gry singer/lyri­cist who saves a gui­tarob­sessed loner from his de­struc­tive self is not un­like Once, the 2012 Tony Award win­ner. Their three-year love af­fair un­folds in the same man­ner of flash­backs as the pop­u­lar mu­si­cal The Last Five Years. And watch­ing a young, am­bi­tious, Jewish pow­er­house singer whose idol is Bar­bra Streisand sing thrillingly can only bring to mind go-get­ter Rachel Barry of TV’s Glee.

It should be pointed out this au­to­bi­o­graph­i­cal tale by the Lon­don hus­ban­dand-wife com­pos­ing team of Paul Scott Good­man and Miriam Gor­don pre­dates those other works, but all were more orig­i­nal, am­bi­tious and en­gag­ing. The Good­man-Gor­don book, based on his 1970s-era tra­vails in the rock wars, fuses the stan­dard boymeet-girl, boy-falls-for-girl set-up with the clichéd me­te­oric rise and fall of a per­form­ing duo, to lit­tle con­se­quence. So don’t miss it. The Win­nipeg Stu­dio Theatre cast of St­effi DiDomeni­can­to­nio and Tim Porter save the day — or at least open­ing night — with dy­na­mite per­for­mances un­de­served by this mod­est 90-minute tuner. DiDomeni­can­to­nio is the ele­phant in Rooms as she dis­plays over­sized tal­ent that can’t be ig­nored. What’s not to like? The al­most 24-year-old Toron­to­nian (her birth­day is Sun­day) sings beau­ti­fully with a Win­nipeg Stu­dio Theatre To May 12 at RMTC Ware­house Tick­ets: $20-$34 at 204-942-6537

out of five crys­tal-clear voice, lights up the stage and is wor­thy of mem­ber­ship in that ex­clu­sive club of adorables.

Porter, who has to over­come play­ing an in­tro­verted mope, is also a gifted pop vo­cal­ist who sup­plies chem­istry to the lovers’ un­likely hookup. Both do well with their Scot­tish burr, an ac­cent that re­calls the late-’80s Ed­in­burgh brother act The Pro­claimers.

In her search for some­one to write mu­sic for her song lyrics, Mon­ica is led to Ian’s black door. He is con­tent to play his gui­tar and drink in his room in work­ing-class Scot­land circa 1977, but Glas­gow’s an­swer to Bar­bra Streisand, as her dad calls her, is in a hurry to emerge from the pink door of her bed­room in her fam­ily’s up­per-class home and rocket to star­dom.

Her motto is WIT (“what­ever it takes”) and that re­quires team­ing up with “Mis­ter Anti-So­cial Wanker.” What starts out as a strictly pro­fes­sional re­la­tion­ship blooms into some­thing more when he comes to din­ner and re­lates his sud­den in­fat­u­a­tion in the lovely Fri­day Night Dress.

Their first gig is at a bat mitz­vah, at which they sing the Scot­tish Jewish Princess, hi­lar­i­ously re­veal­ing the girl’s bur­geon­ing bi­sex­u­al­ity in front of her shocked fam­ily. The flak Mon­ica re­ceives makes her feet even itchier to flee her home­town and when she and Ian win a tal­ent con­test — the prize is bus tick­ets to Lon­don — they are on their way.

The stage is made to re­sem­ble a ware­house that’s been con­verted into a per­for­mance space, which just hap­pens to be the his­tory of the RMTC Ware­house. Mon­ica and Ian’s rooms flank the five-piece back­ing band, headed by mu­si­cal di­rec­tor Joseph Tritt, that con­trib­utes to the au­then­tic con­cert feel. Di­rec­tor Kayla Gor­don squeezes all the en­ter­tain­ment she can out of the mu­si­cal num­bers, but that still doesn’t com­pel any viewer in­vest­ment in the ro­mance.

Good­man’s songs ex­hibit few mu­si­cal hooks, but some are fun to watch for the spir­ited per­for­mance by DiDomeni­can­to­nio and Porter. The two take on the stage per­sonas of Lil­lian Filth and Perry Co­matose for their punk band The Di­abol­i­cals and rip into the pound­ing an­them All I Want is Ev­ery­thing, with the req­ui­site ex­ple­tives, mid­dle fin­gers and fi­nal flash of Lil­lian’s un­der­wear. Then again, New Song for Scot­land might be the lamest mu­si­cal fi­nale ever and should have stayed in Good­man’s room.


St­effi DiDomeni­can­to­nio and Tim Porter’s pow­er­ful per­for­mances make Rooms worth watch­ing.

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