Pier 39 down at Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco has an added attraction that is a must see for tourist and local alike that is beyond the usual fare of the under sea Aquarium or the Virtual 4-D simulation rides. It is the original homegrown musical called Insignificant Others playing there at Theatre 39 right above the Hard Rock Café.
San Francisco composer and lyricist L. Jay Kuo wrote the musical romantic comedy which started out as a series of stage readings. Then after being awarded some prestigious grants, the New Conservatory Theatre of San Francisco picked it up and it ran for five straight weekends in 2006. It won the Best Original Musical Script by the Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle that year.
It then completed an 11 week run in the summer of 2007 in the Zeum Theatre in the Yerba Buena Center before engaging in its current extended run at Pier 39.
Now to the show itself:
To anyone who loves this city and the bay area, this musical captures the spirit and the reason why we call this place home. To those who do not live here, it helps you get it! The songs and story take you on a journey with five close friends. The story is uniquely San Francisco but the meaning of friendship is universal.
The ensemble cast worked well and there were some hilarious as well as moving moments in the play. On this night, the stand out performances for me included:
- Katherine Cooper, who plays Margaret as well as Starbucks Frau Java. She steals the show in so many of the performance pieces with her raucous, enthusiastic performances. Her strong voice plus perfect comedic timing carries such numbers like Heterosexual and Plumbing with such relish that leaves the audience in stitches shouting “Bravo!” Cooper is definitely a talent to continue to watch.
- Luke Anthony who plays Jordan is simply the heart of the show. This little guy sings his heart out and you can see it in his face. At one moment you are just laughing with him and at other moments you are almost in tears. His performance is so strong that it overpowers the two other actors that he plays against in the main story arc of his character. That sub plot is that Jordan is in love with a guy named Erik (who may be straight or gay?) while he has to deal with a best friend who is in love with him (but the feeling is not mutual). It gets funny and messy at the same time. Luke Anthony carries that whole story line with his amazing ability to engage the audience with his heart and soul in his performance.
- Ginny Wehrmeister who plays Kristen is absolutely hilarious. She is a throwback to the “Chrissy” dimwitted blonde character of the 70’s sitcom Three’s Company. Except she’s been updated and played with a little more intelligence. Her character is the over the top environmentalist, vegan, San Francisco fad addict. Wehrmeister is a find and I could see her on a show like Saturday Night Life doing this character. She also commands the stage with her presence and works the comedy well giving the punch lines with perfect rhythm.
- Nathaniel Marken who filled in for the role Andrew for this performance actually had the strongest male voice among the actors, speaking to his strong experience in opera and musical theatre. His clear baritone voice was used several times during the production to support the musical numbers. As the two timing straight male Andy/Drew, he added the needed protagonist for all female kind to the story. Watching him move from two personalities with the two women he was playing reminded me of the playful romantic comedies of the bygone movie era. He finally gets busted at a Starbucks. Oh, by the way, there’s a whole humorous, scathing repeated theme about Starbuck’s throughout the show. My favorite scene with Marken is when he is part of a pot induced dream sequence scene where the women he has scorned have taken their wrath out on him in a S/M Dominatrix/ Drag Queen/ Dreamgirls number called “Just Be Careful.” Every woman who has had a jerk of a boyfriend would love that musical number.
I love the music and lyrics. Some of it is irreverent and some of it uses profanity. Yet it is truthful and filled with humanity. Songs like “There’s a House “, “So Many Things,” and “Time Does Not Heal” and “If” are moving and heartfelt. “Plumbing,” “Heterosexual,”, “Evolutionary” and “Eleven” push the limits but are so funny and absolutely cathartic! “Christmas in the City” is a classic that every bay area household should have for the holidays. Of course, I think “Just Be Careful” should be a new Woman’s anthem.
I enjoyed Insignificant Others tremendously and I am extremely proud that it is a Made in San Francisco production. It captures the spirit of this great city and the reasons why we all fall in love with this magical place by the bay. Insignificant Others at Theatre 39 should be a Must See for anyone who comes here along with the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, Fisherman’s Wharf, the Trolley, and Lombard Street. It will make you understand the heart and soul of this place we call home.
Insignificant Others Official Web Site: http://www.isomusical.com/index.html