By Bob Goepfert
GLENS FALLS, NY – “Traffic & Weather,” a musical offering premiered by the Adirondack Theater Festival, is hard to define.
Because all of the songs in the musical are taken from an album of the same name, created by the band Fountains of Wayne, it contains elements of a rock concert. However, since the songs are all extremely narrative in nature, when performed on stage with actors performing the characters depicted throughout the song, it feels like a jukebox musical.
Neither description is correct. Because the song lyrics are portrayed, it’s more than a concert and since the show lacks a guideline, it’s really not a musical in the traditional sense.
Right now, “Traffic & Weather” is basically a concept piece. Although very short, it lasts around 45 minutes, it is still exciting work. The presentation is filled with talented artists who show boundless energy as they let off steam on songs that are fun to listen to.
Adding to the fun, it is delivered in a visually stimulating way and supported by a great group of four musicians located on stage.
However, as good as it is, you leave the show wanting more. It does not mean dissatisfied. What you get is a high quality experience. It is simply not complete.
The best way to approach the presentation of the ATF is to imagine it as attending a workshop of a musical offering rich in potential.
The key to “Traffic & Weather” lies in the clever and fully comprehensive stories created in the songs of Adam Schlesinger. He had a knack for creating songs that made the frustrations of everyday life comic. Unfortunately, he was one of the first victims of COVID, who died of complications from the disease in April 2020. He was only 52 years old.
Schlesinger’s talent for creating witty little musical tales comes to life through the imaginative staging of Martha Banta, who directed and developed the concept for the show. Choreographer Monica Kapoor deserves the same credit for the nonstop movement of the cast, including the change of scenery.
That the visual aspects of the production never dominate the music itself is a credit to Music Director Gary Adler, who leads the excellent group on keyboards and whose arrangements add to the theatricality of the songs.
While the show’s production values are nearly perfect, the material must develop if the show is to have a longer lifespan. The energy level is exciting but relentless. So much so that it can seem tiring.
“Someone to Love”, presented by two television presenters, tells the story of two potential lovers, with apartments opposite each other, endlessly passing through the night. When at the end of the show, this number is combined with the title song, it becomes an unexpected and joyful ending to a night filled with cross-connections and miscommunication.
In between, there are a lot of memorable moments. You are delighted when the men of the cast offer an ode to automobiles with “92 Subaru”. When the whole cast unites for “New Routine”, it’s a special moment.
There are several two-way acts that are slower and often ironically funny, but when Natalie Gallo takes the stage alone for the complainant “I-95,” you realize how much individual serenity or emotion has been reduced in 10 of the two. 11 songs from the show.
Schlesinger’s songs are observational. He has an original and sensitive way of seeing life that reflects the strangeness of everyday life and the difficulty of making emotional connections with another person. But it’s rare that a single character can express these feelings in a sincere way.
Throughout the show, we know what these people are going through, but we rarely know them on a personal level.
Whether it’s adding more songs, developing clearer characters with a personal perspective, or just adding a connecting line, the show demands a device that will invite the audience into the lives of people on stage and connect. the individual numbers in a satisfactory whole.
If you visit the Charles Wood Theater in Glens Falls by August 14, you will be in awe of the talent and creativity.
Besides Gallo, the other four main cast, Trevor Strader, Thomasina Petrus, Sam Harvey and Stanley Martin and all of the supporting cast members are dynamic performers, all passionate about the material. They are also altruistic artists who appear in numbers without having lines, but who add to the moment without detracting from the intention of the scene.
If “Traffic & Weather” is a musical with a potential for the future, the cast members are all potential stars of the future.
“Traffic & Weather” is special in a unique way. If you’re looking to witness a complete Broadway hit, this probably isn’t for you. But if you like to be part of a real theatrical experience, call (518) 480-4878 or go to atfestival.org. It runs until Saturday.