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The world premiere of In My Body, a new chamber musical that just opened at the Prince Theater, has both charm and a message. Five talented performers sing and dance and moan and groan and, mainly, rejoice through 28 numbers. Each is a little skit about fearlessly inhabiting our bodies, and examining the ways our physical selves can torment us. (Eat your heart out, Descartes: “I think, therefore I am” just isn’t enough!)
It started with a song
Lyrics are by Michael Biello and music by Dan Martin. Their song, “In My Body,” launched the idea for the show 10 years ago. Kate Cipriano, Melissa Hays, and Lis Kalogris wrote the book. Kathryn MacMillan directs, with choreography by K.O. DelMarcelle. The excellent onstage music ensemble, which is comprised of cello, drums, and piano, is directed by Chris Burcheri.
The main idea is that everyone should feel comfortable in his/her/their skin, despite feeling “too fat, too old, too pale, too weak, and never thin enough.” There are songs about breasts “big ones, flappin’ in the breeze,” songs about being addicted to diets, to anti-depressants, to gyms. In other words, all the ills that flesh is heir to. Witty wordplay and endless rhymes are often used in surprising ways; “Fertility Nation” is a dark, sad patter song about a 30-something couple desperate to conceive. (Nice attention to detail: the actors wear wedding rings in the two scenes about marrieds.)
It’s a show that is likely to have legs, as they say, although who the intended audience is isn’t always clear. The show contains an uneasy mixture of sophistication, with songs cleverly acknowledging inevitabilities and trite sermonizing about all the current usuals: bullying, transgender issues, and growing old. The show begins with asking us to imagine an old cover girl or a fat runway model, and slides to a faux-operatic “Ode to Annie Sprinkle,” the Philadelphia-born cervix-displaying performance artist, who believes, “When I pleasure myself, I pleasure the world.”
Talking the talk
The actors are all attractive, as actors tend to be. (Where is everybody else?) Four of these fine and versatile performers are young: Donnie Hammond, Michael Indeglio, Austin Ku, and Katie Zaffrann, while April Woodall holds down the Boomers fort.
The actors stand in sharp contrast to the graphic photographs of bodies included in the program, showing double mastectomies and extreme tattoos. In one song, a fugue really, called “I Am Not My Hair,” the actors hold up pictures of people with alopecia and radiation baldness, but that is the only time the photos are referenced.
About halfway through the 90-minute show, the melodies begin to seem repetitive as does the choreography. But if there are no real surprises or revelations in In My Body, it does provide a lively, enjoyable evening.
What, When, Where
In My Body. Through November 13, 2016. Flying Bulldog Productions at the Prince Theater, 1412 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia. (215) 442-4580 or princetheater.org.
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