Review: ‘The Lonely Few’ Musical Rocks Geffen Playhouse

Geffen Playhouse’s intimate Audrey Skirball Kenis Theater has been transformed into a dive bar for the world premiere musical “The Lonely Few.” Tables and chairs are set up in the play area to immerse a portion of the audience into the raucous, raucous atmosphere of the Kentucky Roadhouse.

The Lonely Few is the name of the band that jams at Paul’s juke joint. Front woman Leela (Lauren Patton), who works as a clerk at the local Save-a-Lot by day, is too talented to be mired in this backwater. But she feels unable to leave her older brother, Adam (Joshua Close), an affable duffer with a substance abuse problem.

Leela and Adam have taken care of each other since their mother’s death. Leela has big dreams for herself, but she values ​​loyalty more than success. To stay sane, she channels her estrangement at her gigs, where her fiery guitar playing, powerful vocals and introspective songwriting burn away the everyday tedium of her life with a Dionysian flame.

On one of these occasions, a special guest arrives at the bar. Amy (Ciara Rainey), a black singer-songwriter testing the waters of a solo career, arrives one night at the invitation of Paul (Thomas Silcott), her former stepfather, who is not only bossy, but lonely. There is also the drummer of Fue. , Amy quickly recognizes that Leela is no ordinary singer. She also sees that they have something in common as gay rockers in the intolerant South.

A love story centered on a meteorite in this musical, with a book by Rachel Bonds and a score by Zoe Saranac. Two women who are connected to their cultural roots, yet alienated by the conservative values ​​of their communities, hold out to each other the answers to problems that until now seemed insurmountable.

Leela, longing for freedom, needs a way out. Amy, hungry for belonging, needs a way to feel inside. And the marginalization of being queer will further increase the odds of a possible happy ending for these characters.

Stage actors are often asked to play famous rock stars in jukebox musicals, depending on the audience’s affection for the popular music catalog. “The Lonely Few” forces its cast to earn their rock-and-roll stripes.

There’s no cover band medley of old hits to win over restless audience members, so performers have to work their own sizzling magic while jamming. The production — fluidly directed by Trip Cullman and Eleanor Scott on a set by Sybil Wickersheimer that makes imaginative use of the unsuspecting corners of the Geffen Playhouse’s second stage — is fortunate to have two talented singers taking charge.

Patton won a Tony Award for her featured performance in “Jagged Little Pill,” the Alanis Morissette and Diablo Cody musical, in which she delivers a version of “You Oughta Know” that regularly brings down the house. (The role was the subject of some controversy related to the production of Patton’s character’s gender identity.) Leela’s musical style is eclectic, blending the mercurial emotionality of Morissette’s music with the classic rock authority of Melissa Etheridge. Patton blends Broadway quality perfectly with roadhouse authenticity.

Renee has amazing vocal agility that can go from low low to high range. Her singing is almost too good, but then she’s playing a famous recording artist whose stardom would be higher if it weren’t for her proximity to society. She gives Amy the melancholy gleam of an artist struggling to clear an independent path.

Ciara Renee and Thomas Silcott singing "some alone" at the Geffen Playhouse.

Ciara Renee and Thomas Silcott in “The Lonely Few” at Geffen Playhouse.

(Jeff Lorch / Geffen Playhouse)

The entire cast is fabulous, carving each role with enticing flair. As Adam, Close hones the cynical generosity that makes it so difficult for Leela to leave her brother. Silcott’s Paul shows himself as a man who seeks to rectify his past wrongs, and that sincerity comes to the fore as Paul and Amy dig into the complexities of their history.

Helen J. Shane plays precocious 17-year-old keyboardist JJ in The Lonely Few in a way that emphasizes the character’s wacky ambition without losing the youngster’s ethereal sensibility. In the role of Dylan, a bandmate, friend and booster of Lila’s, Damon Duno (a Tony nominee for his performance as Curly in the revival of Daniel Fish’s “Oklahoma!”) is a hottie eager to ride to the big time. makes it attractive. As he knows that he will have to take leave soon and face his responsibilities at home.

Exciting vocals, inventive staging and engaging acting can’t entirely cover up the musical’s main problem – choppy story-telling. It can be tempting to lay the blame on Bonds’ book, which has some clichéd dialogue, predictable plot points and familiar confrontation scenes. Oddly, for a modern musical about a gay couple, the writing nods to the sentimental tactics of an earlier, more traditional era. (Playwright William Inge’s character, desperate to find connection in unfavorable provincial conditions, bears a striking resemblance to “The Lonely Few” gang.)

Lauren Patton and Joshua Close In "some alone" at the Geffen Playhouse.

Lauren Patton and Joshua Close play siblings in “The Lonely Few,” directed by Trip Cullman and Eleanor Scott.

(Jeff Lorch / Geffen Playhouse)

But the fault is not only of the book. It’s the relationship between the play and the music that is off-kilter.

Saranac’s songs are often drowned out by the sound volume of the production, frustrating those who expect the musical’s songs to propel the story forward. But not all of the audible songs shed meaningful light on the characters, and some jump into action that doesn’t feel entirely earned.

As a result, the rhythm of the show is derailed. The songs grow in lyrical interest in the second act, but the storytelling drags on, especially in the long final stretch. “Reprise” beautifully exposes Amy’s vulnerability and “Always Wait For You” soulfully conveys Leela’s romantic realization, but the psychological context and dramatic deployment of these numbers could use some tinkering.

“The Lonely Few” cries out for clarity and compression. But it’s a lovely new musical with some untapped potential. Love stories, even gay ones, can’t stop being a bit old-fashioned at their core. But it has still more originality to discover.

‘lonely few’

Where: Geffen Playhouse, Audrey Skirball Kenis Theatre, 10886 Le Conte Ave, LA

When: Tuesday-Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 3 & 8 p.m., and Sunday at 2 & 7 p.m. (Check schedule changes.) Ends April 30.

stamp: starting at $59

Information: (310) 208-2028 or

running time: 2 hours, 20 minutes (with one intermission)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

error: Content is protected !!