Philadelphia Theatre Company presents ‘Found’ (first review)

A show both lost and found

Found, a good-natured, amusing musical, has come to Philadelphia Theater Company with a winning ensemble of heavily-credentialed talent. Based on a true if unlikely story, it follows Davy Rothbart’s career from slacker and pizza delivery guy to the creator of a magazine called Found which led to books which led to a successful Off-Broadway show. And now it’s here. Music and lyrics are by Eli Boli and the book is by Hunter Bell and Lee Overtree who also directs.

'Found's' ensemble in action. (Photo by Mark Garvin)

The backstory behind anonymous stories

It all begins when Davy (F. Michael Haynie) finds a note on his windshield written by a woman who’s mad at her boyfriend; she confused Davy’s car for his. Davy is charmed by this urban scrap and soon he and his roommates Denise (Alysha Deslorieux ) and Mikey D. (Juwan Crawley, who has a fabulous singing voice) are all collecting these found notes, written on restaurant checks, Gap receipts, anything, anywhere. 

The notes — some funny, some sad — are projected onto the walls (terrific video projections, designed by Darrel Maloney, make the scraps of paper covering the set come to life). As sung by the company, they create backstories for their unknown writers. The ensemble (Andrew Call, Orville Mendoza, Molly Pope, Sandy Rustin and Graham Stevens) provides energetic singing and snarky commentary on the goings-on of the central characters.

The plot thickens with Davy and Denise’s success after they begin performing in bars, reading the notes. The gigs increase, the magazine takes off, and before you know it, Davy’s in Hollywood with a new girlfriend (Erika Henningsen), cutting Denise and Mikey out of TV deals and out of his life.  

Staying weird among the generic

Now, if you know anything about conventional musical comedy, you know this is going to get sorted out happily, and so it is. If you know anything about after-school specials, ditto. It’s no accident that a national education and media organization called Story Pirates — they take short stories written by children and turn them into musical productions — had a hand in creating Found. The clincher, and one of the best songs, is “Stay Weird,” based on a note Davy left for Mikey D. when they were kids. “Stay weird” is the best advice any weird kid could get. And since Found’s plot is about friendship and betrayal and selling out and then seeing the error of your ways and making up, well, there you have it.

If you’re 15, I bet you’ll love this show from the start; if you’re an actual adult, it may take quite a bit longer, since the music, choreography, and simple, repetitious lyrics are often fairly generic. But, eventually, after about an hour, the songs get better, the play put on for a fifth grade class is hilarious, and the real star of this show emerges: Christina Anthony, who is funny, subtle, has a great voice and can work the crowd. She plays multiple roles, and she’s totally irresistible. 

To read Dan Rottenberg's review, click here.

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