When I first heard the story behind Glory Days, the daring new musical penned by two 23-year-old pipsqueaks (one just a little slip of a flouncing chorine in this season’s Cry-Baby), prepping to make its home on a real Broadway stage at the Circle in the Square Theatre (ok - maybe not a real Broadway stage), I kvelled with the excitement of an overbearing Jewish mother whose son had just come out of the closet. I mean, how inspiring??...How thrilling??...How annoying?? (I was also jealous. Did I mention I was jealous?) But what a remarkable accomplishment, really. And perhaps this would be the groundbreaking sleeper of the year we’d all been waiting for! What I was witness to at a recent performance of the show, however, was an absolute shande! My "gay son" had split ends and couldn’t dress worth a damn.
Brimming with affected frat boy camaraderie and the sort of over-caffeinated, counterfeit rock ‘n’ roll pep that would inspire a B line to the nearest bathroom during a third-rate national touring production of Footloose, Glory Days is a coming-of-age-ish tale of four unlikely high school chums; Will, the sensitive writer; Jack, the sensitive non-writer with a dark secret; Skip, the less sensitive non-writer with a new haircut and no secret; and Andy, the jock. They reunite a year after graduation on the football field of their alma mater, primarily intent on staging a prank involving the sprinkler system to pull at a home game the following afternoon, and wind up reminiscing about the "good old glory type days." Before long, and to the forgettable and occasionally mortifying tunes of what sound like variations on the same 16 bars of RENT in its earliest stages, the boys find themselves smack in the middle of a post-adolescent-mid-pre-quarter-life crisis! (And you thought you had troubles.)
The already thin plot drops about four dress sizes when Jack (the one sporting frosted highlights, a residual plastic wristband from the gay bar he was at the previous night, and a "Mrs. Timberlake" t-shirt...ok, slight exaggeration, but not by much) announces his newfound affection for kissing other boys! (If it were Les Miz, this would have been the erection of the barricades.) After a soggy parade of generic coming-out dialogue that even I at my most delicate and vulnerable; emergent from my own gay cocoon some years ago, was too clever and original to use (e.g. "I guess on some level...I always knew.."), Will and Skip offer their support and commendation for the courageous leap. Andy, the jock, spends the rest of the evening coming to terms with the fact that one of his nearest and dearest is now also his queerest. (You just never think it could happen to you.)
It’s painfully obvious that a great deal of effort went into making these young pups and their connections appear multidimensional, but to no avail. All four characters are as flat and dull as the minimal set they romp around on (bleachers.) And the bond among them is farfetched, to say the very least. Though the book justifies their accidental brotherhood as a shared ostracism from the football team, there is no believable evidence of these four separate entities ever coexisting beyond sitting next to each other in homeroom, or perhaps a handful of visits to one another’s MySpace pages. Let alone forming the life-altering, five-year kinship they blab about. And though it takes its drama quite seriously, the show lacks any substantial story line and delivers no discernible message, making it essentially a tale of human relationships and personal growth (premature though it may seem, spanning one measly and uneventful year). The problem is that it lacks any trace of subjective insight into either of these themes. What remains is a rather trivial mish-mosh of petty arguments and grownup role playing, albeit typical of the age group, but which by no means deserves the right to be magnified to the scale of a musical on - or even off - Broadway.
In a moment at the end of the show, Skip (the "Sophia" of these four Golden Girls) bestows upon sensitive writer Will the wisdom to "write what he knows". This little pearl encapsulates the cardinal weakness in the show, itself. I'd hoped that the young writing duo producers decided to take a chance on would prove worthy of the honor by having written something radically innovative, or even simply wise beyond their years. Instead they've written what they know, and nothing more. As a result, this 90-minute bubblegum melodrama, which claims to "take the pulse of the modern American 20-year-old", flatlines. With so much more progressive and important theatre out there (Mamma Mia comes to mind), who really needs to see a musical about four average, bratty twentysomethings kvetching about their problems? Especially when we can stay home and watch "The Hills" on MTV. At least those people sleep with each other.
To those two pipsqueaks behind Glory Days who've obviously drawn from their own life experiences thus far to inspire its limited subject matter, I say just wait...just wait until you get to be 26 like me; when the figure starts to go and the alcoholism and menopause kick in. That, Boys, is the stuff of Broadway musicals.