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Four guys, seemingly in their late 20s or early 30s, gather on their high-school football field one midnight, not having seen one another since graduation last year…oh, I get it, apparently these one-time best buds are supposed to be 18-ish. That must be why their small-scale personal dramas seem so monumental—to them, if not to the audience.
Welcome to Glory Days, a brand-new musical from Nick Blaemire and James Gardiner, two products of the Montgomery County schools. They’re 23 themselves, and while having conceived a fully formed musical—much less having workshopped it and convinced a theater to produce it—is an accomplishment for any creative team, their youth is about all that makes Glory Days unusual.
Oh, the production is handsome enough: Signature Theatre has enlisted James Kronzer to pretty up the proceedings, and he’s delivered a spare set that’s basically a rank of bleachers astride a swath of AstroTurf, all of it backed by a wall of sports-field lights. The bleachers add a little excitement, if only because Eric Schaeffer sends his actors skipping up and down ’em like musically inclined mountain goats, and there’s a certain thrill in wondering what’ll happen if somebody misses a riser. (They don’t, much to their credit.) The lights, meanwhile, work with the vaguely pop-rocky arrangements to add punch in the final bars of songs whose melodies don’t supply much on their own.
But the characters feel both bland and stock—there’s the literary-minded narrator, the inarticulate jock, the military brat who’s put his JROTC days behind him and started growing his hair. Oh, and there’s the guy who has no discernible previous identity but who comes out of the closet a third of the way through the show so the evening will have a focus. If the song that encapsulates his big surprise is pretty enough, the revelation, like the tension the show tries to build around it, feels distinctly ho-hum.
The uptempo numbers feel interchangeably, generically angular, and Blaemire hasn’t done any more musically to establish a sense of individuality than Gardiner has with his book. And the upshot—the dawning awareness that we change, and that the pressurized, hermetic friendships of high school don’t always survive the wider world—won’t feel much like 11 o’clock number material to anyone old enough to have been to a high-school reunion.
So give Blaemire and Gardiner credit—for ambition, and for an ingratiating ballad or two, and for capturing the intense narcissism of late teenagerdom. But unless your idea of catharsis is watching four middle-class white boys learn that people keep growing after “Pomp and Circumstance” plays, don’t give ’em your credit card.