Bailiwick Chicago presents
At Royal George Cabaret Theatre, 1641 N. Halsted
Written by Dougal Irvine (Book, Music, Lyrics)
Directed by Tom Mullen
Musical direction by Kevin Mayes
Thursdays through Saturdays at 8pm
Saturdays at 3pm, Sundays at 7pm
Thru December 12th
Running Time: 85 minutes with no intermission
Reviewed by Katy Walsh
Vacation is over. Passport verified. Security check completed. Now boarding…. Nope! The flight is delayed. Stuck in limbo between where they’ve been and where they are going, four lives are on a forced layover. Bailiwick Chicago presents the American premiere of DEPARTURE LOUNGE a musical by composer and playwright Dougal Irvine. Four British friends just finished their boys- gone-wild graduation celebration. They are university-bound! Due to a plastic milk snafu, they are in a holding pattern at the airport. Hours pass. Impatience leads to disclosure. The waiting area becomes a confessional for secrets. Betrayal. Duplicity. Uncertainty. Disgust. “Do you know what I feel?” There isn’t space in the overhead bin for all that baggage. What happened on the road needs to be unpacked and claimed. These Backstreet Boys are not NSync as they grow from Boys to Men. Seeing DEPARTURE LOUNGE is like being a boy band groupie. It’s watching drama close up as harmonious, rhythmic eye candy.
Ticketholders are greeted at the gate by the polite but cliquey Ryanair flight attendants. True to life, the crew (Abby Sammons, Brittany Townsley, Rus Rainear) have the friendly-disinterest perfected. This supporting cast makes flight announcements sound like an open mike rant on stewardess lunacy. The delivery is especially funny because the idiocy resonates like any flight delay excuse. Bollocks! Despite waiting 9+ hours in an airport, these boys are still ready to bust a move. From the first song, “Brits on Tour,” this foursome hits the charts in choral hip-hop. Director and choreographer Tom Mullen orchestrates high-energy, clubby, line- dance routines. The boys jump and pop without missing a beat or note. Collectively, it’s a quartet of synchronization, syncopation fascination. Individually, each of the guys has showcase moments. Devin Archer (Jordan) magnificently sings his soulful “Secret” ballad going from a timid whisper to a full-out revelation. In a duet bursting with feeling, Dan Beno (JB) and Erik Kaiko (Ross) are a childhood duo on the brink of irreversible change. Beno wants to reveal the brotherhood bond. Kaiko wants to rid himself of the motherhood ties. The strong contrast is heart-wrenching. Spilling coffee on himself or drunk at the club, Jay W. Cullen (Pete) is the comedian of the group. Solo, he struggles with his hook-up and some notes. In the group, Cullen is confidently hilarious in both. Andrea Larson (Sophie) is the fantasy girl continually re-dressed to perfection like Spring-Break-Barbie by Bill Morey. Larson is beautifully dense in her dumb blonde encounters with the boys.
Playwright Dougal Irvine has written an upbeat and fun coming of age story. Struggling to find yourself within the group and without the group has a timeless relevance for anyone at any age. Setting the scene in a hung-over hangar lay-over is today’s familiar traveler’s burlesque. DEPARTURE LOUNGE is “Airplane” meets “Stand-by Me” with the PG-13 version of “High School Musical“. You’ll laugh, you’ll get misty, and you’ll never admit to working out to the Spice Girls again. Ross sums up the essences of the play, life and friendships with a profound: “A wise man once said, ‘when you know, you know. You know?'” Yes, I know, I know!