If the reason you go to musicals is for the musical numbers, Midnight at the Never Get, presented by the York Theatre Company, is a sure bet. The songs are absolutely gorgeous – every single one of them. The music and lyrics are written by Mark Sonnenblick, winner of a 2018 Jonathan Larson Grant. Set in an illegal, underground gay cabaret in Greenwich Village in the mid to late 1960’s, the songs are reminiscent of the Great American Songbook with clever, moving lyrics and haunting, hummable melodies.
The storyline revolves around singer Trevor (Sam Bolen) and songwriter/piano player Arthur (Jeremy Cohen) and their relationship and groundbreaking act at The Never Get. It’s essentially a memory play presented in the form of their nightclub act which was known as, you guessed it, Midnight at the Never Get. The conceit here is that Arthur wrote love songs to Trevor with the male pronoun and they were the first “straight” gays to sing them in public. “Straight” meaning non-drag, non-camp gay men.
Unfortunately, the book, also written by Mark Sonnenblick, isn’t as successful as the music. The back story doesn’t unfold enough for the audience to feel like we understand what has actually gone on, and the character of Arthur is not fully developed. Since we basically only see him through Trevor’s memory, which is clearly clouded by his feelings, we don’t know what to believe about Arthur, and ultimately, what to believe or feel about Trevor.
However, even though Midnight at the Never Get may not succeed entirely as a theater piece, it is actually a successful musical evening due not only to Sonnenblick’s marvelous music, but to Bolen and Cohen’s talents as performers, and Andrew Palermo’s spot-on choreography. Sam Bolen sings most of the songs not only with a flawless tenor, but a nuanced and heartfelt rendering of each lyric. It’s a tour de force performance that deserves the wild and enthusiastic reception the audience gives him. Jeremy Cohen shines on the piano, accompanying all the songs effortlessly, singing a few equally well, and navigating Arthur’s personality shifts due to Trevor’s emerging memories adroitly.
If cabaret is your thing, or really good music performed incredibly well gets you going, I’d say go for it. It's 90 minutes without an intermission and I thoroughly enjoyed it as a musical evening.
(Photo by Carol Rosegg)