Last Saturday, I had the privilege of attending “Make Me a Song: The Music of William Finn” at UC’s CCM. This was the first of this year’s Studio Series shows, put on for free in the Cohen Family Studio Theater. What a beautiful room in a beautiful building full of beautiful people singing beautiful songs. Everything is beautiful there, if you missed the point.
But maybe things are a little too beautiful.
I don’t know; I found the singing to be superb. Perfect, in fact. The cast, headed up by Collin Kessler (playing “William Finn” himself) was astounding. I first saw Collin as Leaf Coneybear in another of Finn’s works, “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” and if you read that review you’ll see that I said glowing things about him. He didn’t let me down here and in fact upped his game considerably. His take on “Stupid Things I Won’t Do” demonstrated why as a sophomore he was given this lead role.
The rest of the ensemble, Max Chernin (who shines especially in his lower register), Blaine Krauss (who’s take on “Hitchhiking Across America” was fantastic; he has such an expressive face), Victoria Cook (who appeared like a future Broadway star with her voice and versatility), and Alysha Deslorieux (who, just like when I saw her in “Rent” projected a unique charisma) all sang precisely and effortlessly. They were outstanding.
But there was just something missing.
Perhaps it is Finn himself who I didn’t connect with; his upbringing and life story is vastly different from mine (and in fact, if I cared at all about politics, I’d likely be a Republican, which would cause him great alarm). Some of his songs were refreshing and poignant, but after 85 minutes of what often feels like improv-ed ramblings, I was tired. Its a credit to the cast that I was as engaged as I was. However, as with all my experiences thus far at CCM, everything was so beautiful but I never really felt moved. Had they added a few songs from “Spelling Bee,” which is in my top 5 shows of all time, I might have felt something. But I don’t know. Its weird, really.
That said, they are doing my favorite show of all time, “Spring Awakening,” in a few months. If they can’t move me with that show, then we’re going to have a major problem. I’ll let you know how it goes.