Music, books, and lyrics by Ben Fankhauser and Alex Wyse; Directed by Marshall Pailet
Off Broadway, Musical
Runs through 11.14.21
DR2 Theatre at Union Square East, 103 East 15th Street
by Linda Buchwald on 10.9.21
Ben Fankhauser, Bryonha Marie Parham, and Alex Wyse in A Commercial Jingle for Regina Comet. Photo by Matthew Murphy.
BOTTOM LINE: Two Jews in a room bitching (and writing commercial jingles) makes for an amusing welcome back to Off Broadway musicals.
A Commercial Jingle for Regina Comet is the first new Off Broadway musical to premiere since the shutdown. After a difficult year and a half, this short, light comedy is just the escapist show to welcome us back. Even with a thin plot that is barely sustained for 80 minutes, it's nice to be at the theater, laughing.
Two down-on-their-luck songwriting partners, referred to in the Playbill only as Man 2 (Ben Fankhauser) and Other Man (Alex Wyse), have a chance at their big break when they are hired to write a jingle for Regina Comet's (Bryonha Marie Parham) new fragrance. Regina Comet is a famous pop star who is on the decline and looking to appeal to a younger demographic. Man 2 and Other Man went to Jewish summer camp together where they wrote musicals like Sukkot, Baby, Sukkot, and many of the jokes are rooted in Jewish humor, which Fankhauser and Wyse deliver perfectly. All three also have the ability to hit impressive musical notes in addition to the comedy notes. As the songwriters begin to bicker and go their separate ways, the show starts to lose its narrative thread and its fun, but it picks it up again in time for the final number.
Fankhauser and Wyse co-wrote the music, book, and lyrics and it plays to their comedic strengths as well as Parham's. The score showcases the writers' versatility, with different styles from samba to Merrily-era Sondheim to ballads, though the lyrics are more memorable than the music itself. The musical numbers are made even better by Stephanie Klemons' swivel-chair choreography.
The design elements also work together to tell the story and bring out the humor, especially Sarita Fellows' track suit and khaki-pant costumes, and Wilson Chin's set that looks like a notebook exploded all over it. Aja M. Jackson's lighting design makes the audience feel like they are at a stadium concert and not a tiny 99-seat theater. Indeed, no matter the size of the theater, it sure feels good to be back.
(A Commercial Jingle for Regina Comet plays at DR2 Theatre at Union Square East, 103 East 15th Street, through November 14, 2021. The running time is 80 minutes with no intermission. Proof of vaccination and masks required. Performances are Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 7; Thursdays and Fridays at 8; Saturdays at 3 and 8; and Sundays at 3 and 7. Tickets are $59 and are available at telecharge.com or by calling 212-239-6200. For more information visit reginacomet.com.)
A Commercial Jingle for Regina Comet is written (music, book, and lyrics) by Ben Fankhauser and Alex Wyse. Directed by Marshall Pailet. Choreography by Stephanie Klemons. Set Design by Wilson Chin. Lighting Design by Aja M. Jackson. Sound Design by Twi McCallum. Costume Design by Sarita Fellows. Production Stage Manager is Hannah Woodward. Music Director is Alex Goldie Golden.
The cast is Bryonha Marie Parham, Ben Fankhauser, and Alex Wyse.