A youthful audience gathered at Java Station coffeehouse last Saturday night for the latest innovative project from Elements Theatre Company (ETC): a staged reading of a brand-new musical. Up-and-coming writer/composer Joe Schermann flew out from New York to develop his show, Training, on a cast of eleven. As in past ETC productions, free admission and a nontraditional venue effectively neutralized audience expectations. All the more delightful, then, to discover a show of such energy, talent, and promise.
The show’s title is a double entendre; every scene takes place on either the Q or the 2 train of the New York City subway, where twenty-somethings flirt, fight, bemoan their soul-crushing jobs, entertain existential musings, fall in love, and separate. They’re in training for life, which, like the subway, tends to lurch and halt on its way to the next destination.
Schermann’s script is peppered with curses, make-out scenes, and references to drugs and sex, which might get trying if it weren’t so true to life. Think Sex and the City, just younger, poorer, and underground. Not to mention musical. Schermann’s already an established composer, and his first stab at musical theater suggests he’s got a future there. From the catchy, lilting melody of “They’re Gonna Have Sex Tonight,” to the juddering syncopations of “I Hate My Job,” the show’s full of memorable tunes and lyrics, in this case sung with expressive gusto and accompanied on keyboard by ETC’s musical director Mandee Sikich.
Standouts in a strong cast included Emily Jewell as the aspiring actress Kara, Tad Murroughs as the dejected barista Jamie, and Ethan Hartsell as Brian, the commitment-phobic freelance pianist. They’re all discovering that life in New York, as one character declares, is “a brash, dirty kick in the pants,” which isn’t a bad way to describe Schermann’s show.