There’s something to be said for shows that move you beyond words or spark debate. But sometimes, especially in the summer, you just want to leave a theater feeling nothing but joy. Luckily, the new musical Unlock’d, which opened last night at The Duke on 42nd Street, serves just that purpose.
Unlock’d is not a completely original musical, but you have to hand it to Sam Carner (book, lyrics) and Derek Gregor (music) for turning to Alexander Pope’s The Rape of the Lock for source material rather than another rom com or something. Basically, the show could be called Hair, because most of the characters are concerned with the adored Belinda’s (Jillian Gottleib) hair, either because they want to cut off a lock of it or they want to protect it. But you don’t need a convoluted plot summary. Here are the main things you will want to know about the show:
1) It’s cute. That’s the word my friend and I kept using when we were discussing after. It sometimes reminded me of the best Disney movies in that it’s family friendly with sweet love stories, but throws in adult humor.
2) It has a book that doesn’t suck. Carner combines verse and modern language for a clever book that offers the best of both worlds.
3) And the music, which also combines modern sounds like electric guitar with a more classic sound, doesn’t suck either.
4) Every show has its flaws. Belinda sings to her hair and when it sings back, at least by the third time, it’s a little much. The show probably wouldn’t be hurt by losing 15 minutes or so,either.
5) The whole cast charms. Gottleib has a lovely soprano voice and is perfectly ditzy. Sydney James Harcourt, as her suitor Baron Windsorloch, is like a dashing Disney prince. Jennifer Blood, as Belinda’s step-sister Clarissa, has to straddle the two worlds the most, as she is narrator and delivers all the verse, and she is more than up to the task. A.J. Shively, who I’ve long been a fan of, is adorably shy as bookworm Edwin, which makes his rage-y scene-stealing number “Out of the Bay” all the more satisfying.
6) It looks great. And I’m not just talking about the handsome boys. Amy Clark’s costumes are fun and colorful. David L. Arsenault and Wilson Chin do a lot with a little for the practical but appealing set. But again, this show is all about the hair and Leah J. Loukas’s wigs do not disappoint.
Photo by Richard Termine photographed at The Duke on 42nd Street