"A Class Act" (Porchlight Music Theatre): Glorious Resurrection of Ed Kleban

"A Class Act" (Porchlight Music Theatre):  Glorious Resurrection of Ed Kleban

#174.  Writers have all these words swirling around in our heads.  Our ongoing quest is to get them on paper in the correct sequential order.  Doesn’t happen always this. And that makes us crazy.  Because we have this intention of a legacy of masterpieces, we are often tortured by the voices of the un-actualized stories in our mind.

Porchlight Music Theatre presents the Chicago premiere of A CLASS ACT.  Ed Kleban is dead at 48.  He is the Tony Award-Winning lyricist for A Chorusline.  His friends have gathered to remember him.  The memorial service turns into flashbacks of the artistic struggle.  Ed Kleban fought for his words to sing.  He was a perfectionist.  He was a genius. He was a loon.  His friends watched him crest and fall in his ongoing sea of despair and desire.  Kleban wanted to be relevant.  In life, he became a one hit wonder. In death, his friends assembled his unproduced songs in this musical memorial.  A CLASS ACT is a glorious resurrection of Ed Kleban.   

Ed Kleban, who?  I didn’t know this songwriting composer’s name.  I knew his moving words from A Chorusline.  Even in this show, the short excerpts from ‘At the ballet’ and ‘what I did for love’ got me all misty.  But this show isn’t about those songs, it’s about Kleban’s unheard music.  Under Beckie Menzie’s musical and piano playing direction, these newly discovered gems sparkle.  Since Kleban hadn’t written these songs for A musical, it’s a robust collection of style and tunes. Captivating from ballads like “The Next Best Thing to Love” to the bopping “Broadway Boogie Woogie,” the cast effectively pulls you into the maddening and intensity of Ed Kleban.           

Wearing groovy vintage fads (designer Bill Morey), this ensemble is superb.  They showcase the life and death of Ed Kleban with honesty and humor.  Director and choreographer Stacey Flaster stages the show for haunting memorable moments. Flaster keeps the ensemble often on the fringes as observers and Bill Larkin (Ed) centerstage.  The symbolic pacing keeps people coming and going and coming back into Ed’s life.  Alone and accompanied, Larkin fills the stage with overwhelming excitement and angst.  Larkin energetically channels the artist as lovable and infuriating.  He attacks the role and *his friends* with arrogant highs and devastating lows.  Larkin and company give spectacular voice to Kleban’s life and songs. 

I love that Playwrights Linda Kline and Lonny Price brilliantly weaved their friend’s music into a musical about him.  What better way to remember someone that you loved and lost?  Ed Kleban is one, singular sensation and his work is immortalized in A CLASS ACT.

A man, who has attempted to write many musicals, Dick describes it with "an excellent musical!"

Running Time:  Two hours and thirty minutes includes an intermission

At Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont

Music and lyrics by Edward Kleban

Book by Linda Kline and Lonny Price

Direction and choreography by Stacey Flaster

Music direction by Beckie Menzie

Fridays at 8pm

Saturdays at 4pm and 8pm

Sundays at 2pm 

Thru October 7th 

Buy Tickets at www.theaterwit.org

Production photograph courtesy of Jeremy Rill

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