TADA! YOUTH THEATER is back again with the World Premiere of UP TO YOU. The creative team includes book and music by Eric Rockwell, lyrics by JoAnne Bogart and direction by Janine Nina Trevens. The limited engagement at TADA! Youth Theater (15 West 28th St. 2nd Fl. New York, NY 10001) continues through Sunday, May 20.
Set in 1977, it’s student council election time at Hamilton High. Eric, our narrator, is bullied because of rumors about his sexuality. As the story unfolds, some of his schoolmates choose not to get involved out of fear. Others hide their own feelings in order to be accepted. Finally, there are a few who choose to risk their own reputations to defend him.
Although set well over thirty years ago, Up To You takes on relevant issues facing young people today. As we have seen ourselves from our current election cycle, peer acceptance, bullying and stereotyping are not new issues facing kids today. The show strikes a really nice chord as it stays true to its setting while remaining relevant. The story is apparently loosely based on Mr. Rockwell's own high school experiences.
What I actually found nice about this piece is that it really does hit home for its target youth audience, while not dumbing it down for adults. I can legitimately see this show opening the door to conversations about bullying, homosexuality, popularity and rising above it all – as Mr. Rockwell obviously did.
As usual, I’m always pretty impressed with the TADA! cast. Although kids, they always put on a legitimately solid production (even by our “adult” standards). Some of the kids obviously are stronger than others, but as a whole – there is never a weak link.
Alec Cohen and Alex Getlin are beyond good as Eric and his best friend, Wendy. These teens have wonderful voices and impeccable comedic timing. I would not be surprised if either of them had a performing arts future beyond TADA! My favorite comedic device was Wendy's brother and his elementary school friends. Through sleuthing, they uncover the truth and save the day for Eric and Wendy. I don’t know if Mr. Rockwell purposely was trying do draw a Watergate reference, but they were the cutest Watergate plumbers I ever saw.
As usual with TADA!, the technical elements were impeccable. The costumes were a particular standout. The kids looked great and the show had a legitimate 70's vibe (minus the rampant drug use of course). Seriously though, I appreciated that no one looked like a caricature.
I actually recommend you see this show with a young person in your life. Up To You brings home some serious points about tolerance while not getting preachy. Kids will like it. Kids will get it. Adults? Just be happy someone is starting that tough conversation for you.
Tickets are only $15 for adults and $8 for children. Premium tickets (also available for every performance) are $25 for adults and $15 for children. They feature priority seating and support TADA!’s programming. Tickets are available online at www.tadatheater.com/currentseason.asp. Tickets may also be purchased in-person one hour prior to performance. The running time is approximately 60 minutes.