(l to r) Jeremy Cohen and Sam Bolen in York Theatre Company’s ‘Midnight at the Never Get.’
(Photo: Carol Rosegg)
By Ryan Leeds
The York Theatre Company has struck gold once again with Midnight at the Never Get. This intimate two-hander musical began at the midtown hotspot Don’t Tell Mama and was later presented at the New York Music Festival and in Provincetown, MA.
Through Christopher and Justin Swader’s stylish scenic design and Jamie Roderick’s seductive lighting, it is easy to be swept back in time. Like Cabaret, The Never Get is a safe haven where you can “leave your troubles outside. In here, life is beautiful.” Outside, however, it is 1960s New York and it’s not necessarily a safe place to be homosexual.
Still, that doesn’t stop Trevor (Sam Bolen), a squeaky clean, Idaho born singer from falling for pianist Arthur (Jeremy Cohen). The two regularly perform their show at the exclusive club and share an apartment together in Greenwich Village. As a memory piece, however, Trevor’s life may not be as he remembered. When the musical duo wins the attention of record producers, they are forced to hide their true identities. Soon, we realize that Arthur isn’t quite as enamored with Trevor as Trevor would hope he would be.
On the surface, Midnight at the Never Get is a well-focused 90-minute cabaret act. Yet it goes much deeper, offering insights into gay history and the struggle for acceptance.
A press release states that the show “features a seductive score inspired by the Great American Songbook,” and I admit being initially suspect of Mark Sonnenblick’s book and score. Many have attempted to emulate the timeless sound of composers like Gershwin, Porter, and Berlin, but few have succeeded. Yet Mr. Sonnenblick, a recipient of the 2018 Jonathan Larson Grant award, has fully captured their essence. His music is so authentic that at times, I had to question if it was, in fact, original. Lyrically, he is a master at the comedic double entendre, but he also knows how to glean sentiment without being saccharine.
Mr. Bolen, dressed in a flashy crimson tuxedo, is outstanding. He effortlessly guides this emotional roller coast with good old-fashioned razzle-dazzle. Mr. Bolen is an engaging performer whose energy and stage presence is similar to the late Peter Allen. He fully connects to the audience while simultaneously allowing his character to become completely vulnerable.
Mr. Cohen is also an excellent talent who brings just the right amount of restrained cool to the role. As a heartbreaker, it would be easy to vilify him. But given the taboo of the times and the need to protect himself, he’s able to elicit understanding and empathy.
Music director Adam Podd has created some gorgeous arrangements, all of which are performed by top-notch musicians.
Midnight at the Never Get, skillfully directed by Max Friedman, is a classy show that inspires hope for the future of musical theatre and appreciation for places like the York Theatre, who proudly nurture new talent and ideas.
Midnight at the Never Get
619 Lexington Avenue, NYC
Through November 4
Ryan Leeds is a freelance theater journalist who lives in Manhattan. He is the Chief Theater Critic for Manhattan Digest and a frequent contributor to Dramatics Magazine. Follow him on @Ry_Runner or Facebook.