Reviews were mostly negative, shows are chomping at the bit for the venue, and pundits assume it's just another late-summer seat-filler before the fall season starts -- nevertheless, imPERFECT CHEMISTRY [sic], a satirical comedy with music about the bad and the bald, is working hard to take root at Off-Broadway's Minetta Lane Theatre.
"We're trying to find the audience," general manager Roger Alan Gindi told Playbill On-Line (Aug. 31). "This is a show that has more popular [appeal] than critical appeal. Nunsense survived its mediocre reviews and ended up running eleven years."
As such, the show's come up with a gimmick: anyone who's bald -- or even has just a legitimate bald spot -- can show up at the box office at least thirty minutes before showtime and come away with two free tickets for that night's performance. (According to a Pete Sanders Group production spokesperson, the holder of the second ticket doesn't have to be hairless but simply "bald by association"). The promotion is good for all performances through Oct. 8, seat availability permitting. Tix normally run $50 apiece.
imPERFECT CHEMISTRY opened at the Minetta Lane Aug. 24. Previews began Aug. 15, a week later than the originally-scheduled Aug. 8. Formerly titled After the Follicle, CHEMISTRY deals with issues of science vs. ethics, good vs. evil and big business vs. "big hair."
The comedy tells of two geneticists who, funded by a wealthy philanthropist, find a cure for male pattern baldness. The problem? Capitalism and advertising twist their discovery into one that ends up threatening all humankind. John Ruocco directs and choreographs, and Peter Press is producing the show, which has sets by Rob Odorisio, lighting by John-Paul Szczepanski, costumes by Curtis Hay and sound design by Rob Kaplowitz. August Eriksmoen serves as musical director, vocal arranger and orchestrator. General manager Gindi confirmed reports that the producers for Anne Meara's new play, Down the Garden Paths, have a "back-up agreement" for the Minetta Lane should CHEMISTRY combust. "I had a lovely conversation with [producer] Roy Gabay yesterday," Gindi said (Aug. 31), "and we wished each other luck. They can't do anything to kick us out, and we're not kicking ourselves out." As such, Gindi said that CHEMISTRY is prepared to keep going for at least "several weeks," possibly through the holidays, in the hopes of creating long-term plans for the show in "subsidiary markets."
Brooks Ashmanskas, who played various roles in the Roundabout Theatre Company's Little Me, and Deirdre Lovejoy, who had a featured role in Getting and Spending, are among the castmembers of CHEMISTRY. Also featured are Ken Barnett, John Jellison, Amanda Watkins, Joel Carlton, Michael Greenwood and Sara Schmidt.
With the mid-spring closing of Fuddy Meers, rumors abounded that two shows were seriously considering Off-Broadway's Minetta Lane Theatre: Keith Glover's Thunder Knocking on the Door and Christopher Durang's Betty's Summer Vacation. However, Thunder's producers didn't feel that show was ready for prime time, and plans for Durang's show remain up in the air. Instead, the chemistry seemed right for CHEMISTRY, which has music by Albert Tapper and book and lyrics by James Racheff. Racheff, librettist and co-lyricist for the Goodspeed's Houdini, also adapted the David Merrick-produced Broadway revival of Oh, Kay! a few years back.
The tuner is produced by a new outfit called Back to Back Productions, LLC, a theatrical partnership formed by a group of veteran theatregoers who saw the lack of new original American musical shows and decided to do something about it, according to the Playbill bio. The group works on developing two musicals simultaneously, thus the name Back to Back. The producers hope that the formation of this company "will encourage new composers, lyricists and book writers to keep the American musical alive and kicking."
Executive producer Peter Press is a native New Yorker who has collaborated twice before with composer Tapper. He co-produced the musical, What's a Nice Country Like You Doing in a State Like This and has co-written a series of books of jokes under the Joe King Label published by Andrews McMeel. Press is also the managing director of Back to Back Productions.
For tickets ($50) and information on imPERFECT CHEMISTRY at the Minetta Lane Theatre, Sixth Avenue (West 3rd St.), call (212) 307-4100 or check out the website www.imperfectchemistry.com.
-- By David Lefkowitz
and Kenneth Jones