You can't say the writers don't have their fingers on their character's pulses — they themselves are only recently out of college. From the minds of two twentysomethings (composer-lyricist Nick Blaemire, 23, and librettist James Gardiner, 24) comes an intimate, 90-minute, intermissionless pop-flavored musical about four high school buddies (Steven Booth, Andrew C. Call, Adam Halpin, Jesse JP Johnson) who reunite one year after high-school graduation to find that they no longer sing the same songs.
Like a teenager's unexpected growth spurt, the show came out of the blue at the tail-end of the 2007-08 Broadway season. After a critically acclaimed, hot-selling January world premiere at Signature Theatre in Arlington, VA, Glory Days was picked up by commercial producers who thought the mix of pop, emotional candor and young testosterone would play to a wider audience. Think of it as Altered Boyz.
Eric Schaeffer, who shepherded the show's development and directed the premiere at Signature, where he is artistic director, again directs. The Signature cast transferred to Broadway. All freshly scrubbed, they might have stepped out of a production of the popular musical Altar Boyz; Johnson and Call, in fact, are alumni of that pop show.
Blaemire and Gardiner told Playbill.com that Glory Days — set on a high school football field — doesn't try to tackle all The Big Issues of all human experience. The writers are serving a slice of life — life as they know it, drawing on less than a quarter-century of experience. "One of the things Nick and I were really trying to do with this show was capture what it's like to be a member of our generation, and to talk about the things that we love about it, and also to talk about the things that annoy us," Gardiner said at an April 10 press event that introduced the college-graduate writers to the New York theatre community.
Blaemire explained that the show is "a commemoration of our friendship and the friends we've had and lost between high school and college — and what happens when you're a kid, and then you realize that you're not anymore."
Booth (of Avenue Q in Las Vegas) plays Will, a young writer and the "glue" of the foursome. The show is an ensemble piece, but Will's voice is heard in most of the 18 songs of the score, which flirts with the kind of pop that would make fans of John Mayer and Jason Mraz sit up and listen.
In the summer after his first year attending the University of Michigan, Blaemire wrote a couple of songs ("After All" and "Open Road") inspired by a painful breakup with friends, and played them for Gardiner, a student at the University of Maryland. Blaemire had also sketched out a treatment for a musical about high school buddies who find themselves on different paths following graduation. He sought Gardiner's advice, and a collaboration sparked.
How did the young writers get the attention of Helen Hayes Award-winning director Schaeffer?
Every summer Schaeffer teaches a master class called Overtures at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC. Three years ago, Blaemire and Gardiner were students there and shared some of their work with him (including a song called "Open Road," which remains in the show). Schaffer thought they showed promise.
The writers and their pals later presented their formative musical (then called Ass Backwards) to Schaeffer in his home, and he was moved. He helped guide them over the next two years until he offered them a world-premiere slot at Signature.
The Signature production received a rave review from the Washington Post's respected critic Peter Marks (and from other scribes), and it became a surprise regional hit — and managed to lure a younger demographic to Signature in the process, Schaeffer said.
"Rehearsing it with six guys, I felt like I was at a frat party for five weeks," Schaeffer said. "It took me back to my college days."
He later admitted with a laugh, "It made me feel old."
The producers officially bill Glory Days as "the story of four best friends who reunite a year after high school graduation, only to find how much they have grown apart. As they attempt to understand each other's differences, they soon realize that nothing can compare to the glory days of high school when life was simpler. Set to a vibrant score, Glory Days is a witty, unflinching look at four guys who refuse to be defined by generational stereotypes as they struggle to find their place in the world."
The creative team also includes James Kronzer (scenic design), Sasha Ludwig-Siegel (costume design), Mark Lanks (lighting design) and Peter Hylenski (sound design). Ethan Popp is musical director. Vocal arrangements are by Nick Blaemire and Jesse Vargas. Musical supervision, arrangements and orchestrations are by Jesse Vargas. Production stage manager is Gregg Kirsopp.
Understudies are Alex Brightman and Jeremy Woodard.
Glory Days is produced by John O'Boyle, Ricky Stevens, Richard E. Leopold, Lizzie Leopold, Max Productions and Broadway Across America in association with the Signature Theatre.
Glory Days will be ineligible for 2007-08 Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle and Drama League awards since the April 22 first preview is after the respective organizations' nominating deadlines. The show's May 6 opening night date meets the Tony Award eligibility requirement for this season.
Tickets are $97.50 (includes $1.50 facilities fee) and are available from Telecharge at (212) 239-6200, online at www.telecharge.com, or in-person at the Circle in the Square Theatre.
Subject to availability, a limited quantity of $26.50 student rush tickets will be sold on the day of the performance, in-person at the box office only (limit of two tickets per person, with valid student ID).
For more information about the Broadway production of Glory Days, visit www.GloryDaysBroadway.com.
Circle in the Square Theatre is located at 235 West 50th Street between Broadway and Eighth Avenue.