Sitting in the audience last Saturday afternoon at the Weston Theatre Playhouse waiting for the opening of the world premiere of the musical "Pregnancy Pact," I recalled that a year ago I was in the same seat waiting for the premiere of another musical, "St. Ex." It was Aug. 27, and early the next morning the Playhouse was not spared the fury of Irene, as the West River rose and wreaked havoc with the theater’s basement.
Fortunately the weather has been benign and the Playhouse has made a marvelous recovery. Yet it was a bittersweet reflection and reminder what nature can do.
Then as I read my press packet I wondered, if I might not be the right person to review this production. "Pregnancy Pact" creators, Gordon Leary (book and lyrics) and Julia Meinwald (music) said in recent interview that they listened to a lot of contemporary pop music the girls in the play would be into -- Pink, Miley Cyrus and Kelly Clarkson.
Not anything I listen to. The generation gap might be too profound. And though in the end I found some of the music compelling, I probably will stick to my beloved jazz and classical genres.
The play itself has the potential to have a strong impact. It tackles the very knotty issue of teen pregnancy. Meinwald and Leary took as their inspiration a story of questionable origin that appeared in Time Magazine about a group of girls from Gloucester High School in Massachusetts who made a pact to
The show’s plot finds a group of girls making a similar pact. It begins with the four main characters in the school lavatory. One of the girls, Brynn, played by Margo Seibert, has taken a pregnancy test that has come out positive. She will keep the baby, and soon the others rally to support her and make a pact to get pregnant and raise their babies together. The first one in is Maddie played by Caitlin Kinnunen. She is followed by Jeanelle (Dana Steingold). The last one to commit and the most reluctant is Kaylee played by Katrina Rose Dideriksen.
What motivates these young women to embark on this path? They all have their own motives, but the common thread is that something is lacking in their lives. They have not been loved enough. Having a child will give them the unconditional love they so crave. For example, Brynn has always felt that she has lived in the shadow of her sister who gets all the attention. Maddie has divorced parents. Her father has moved to the West Coast and though he buys her wonderful presents, she wishes for more when she sings with heartfelt poignancy "Love Me Better."
One lovely song in the first act sung by Brynn is "Hummingbird Heart."
The girls are all pregnant, but Brynn is further along and they want to know what it is like to have the baby inside her. She sings that she can feel the baby’s "hummingbird heart" beating inside her.
Towars the end of the first act, two girls Jenn (Lauren Marcus) and Sansanee (Krystina Alabado) who appeared in the beginning to be definitely part of the original four friends want to join the pact. They are accepted and the act finishes with the six of them, led by Maddie singing "Let Me In."
The second act finds the pact starting to show strains. Maddie finds that she is falling in love with Cory, played by Jed Resnick who also plays two other young men of interest. This leads to stressful moments among the friends. Brynn has her baby, but she had always believed it was a girl, but it turns out to be boy.
"Pregnancy Pact" closes on a cautionary note with the song "Save Me" with the telling lyric "From knowing I made a mistake."
Weston is to be commended for bringing "Pregnancy Pact" to the stage. It is the winner of Weston Playhouse Theatre Company’s 2011 New Musical Award. It confronts a difficult topic, and it is handled with sensitivity and care. But like many world premieres that have not had the luxury of many weeks of production rehearsals and preview performances in front of live audiences, it is not without its flaws.
For example, the four girls, though of distinct personalities never rise above stereotypes. There is no clear motivation why the two girls want to be allowed into the pact. The second act loses steam. Definitely, the book needs more work.
Director Joe Calarco does a serviceable job with the material and keeps the action moving along. Music Director Rich Silverstein provides admirable music direction, while Timothy R. Mackabee has created a clever set with its series of arches and stage wagons.
Note that "Pregnancy Pact" has strong language and sexual situations. It runs through this Saturday.
For tickets and information, call the box office at 802-824-5288 or visit westonplayhouse.org.
William Menezes writes about theater and dance for Ovation.