Suburb: The Musical, now playing in our own suburb of Burnsville, tries to relay the message that the suburbs can be just as exciting as their city counterparts. In the director’s notes, Garrick Dietze says, “You don’t have anything to lose by living in the suburbs.” Whether or not that’s true, Suburb provides no evidence that you have anything to gain either.
Suburb premiered off-Broadway in 2001 and since then has been performed across the country, including productions in Texas, Oklahoma, and Wisconsin. It focuses on four individuals and the various decisions they must make surrounding their lives in the suburbs. Stuart (Adam Scarpello) and Allison (Kecia Rehkamp) are soon-to-be parents contemplating a move from their city apartment to the town of Suburb. Stuart longs for a big yard, grass to mow, and windows galore, while Allison fears the move will turn her into her mother. Meanwhile, Tom (Mark Kreger), a widower and handyman, is considering a move away from Suburb to be closer to his son in Florida. Real estate agent Rhoda (Camryn Reynolds) brings a punch of humor and romance as she works to make the sale.
|suburb: the musical, presented through may 2 at the burnsville performing arts center. for tickets ($16) and information, see burnsvillepac.com|
The actors are all fine in their roles, but aside from Reynolds none are particularly memorable. As Rhoda, Reynolds takes the quirky businesswoman’s dialogue and runs with it, giving her familiar character a distinctive touch. Rounding out the cast is a quartet of “burbettes,” four female actors controlling puppets that represent a revolving door of Surburb residents. But the four actors don’t seem completely comfortable maneuvering the puppets and never fade into the background. Instead, what could have been a unique technique to comment on suburbanites becomes a distraction as the puppets try to balance props and change outfits. Andi Billig’s sets are plain, primarily relying on a large backdrop of sky and grass. Two props flank the stage, rotating to reveal painted scenery that doesn’t add much; the production’s limited budget might have been better-spent elsewhere.
Musically, the show is very ambitious. It’s packed full with 17 original songs that hint (but only hint) at Sondheim. Songs like “Mow,” “Barbecue,” and “Mall”—all featuring the “burbettes”—fall flat. “Not Me” is a poignant song performed by Rehkamp that raises the question: Does moving to the suburbs mean growing up and giving in? In the end, the show is carried not by the songs but by the dialogue.
Suburb is potentially an interesting look at life outside the city, but this production fails to make good on its promises. If you’re considering moving to suburbia but concerned that nothing ever happens there, Suburb: The Musical will not convince you otherwise.