The new musical “Midnight at the Never Get” at the York Theater, with book, music and lyrics by Mark Sonnenblick and co-conceived by Sam Bolen, is a gay-oriented tale of a performing partnership that eventually explodes in anguish. The acting is excellent, and the story is romantic and tough, but also in the realm of the show biz cliché of performers eventually going separate ways.
Best of all is Sam Bolen’s performance in both the acting and singing departments. Bolen broadly plays gay Trevor Copeland, with Jeremy Cohen as The Pianist, who is smitten with Trevor, who in turn falls for him and love blossoms. But how deep is it?
The story takes place from the mid to late 1960’s in a Greenwich Village bar titled The Never Get. Bolen has a dominating stage presence, and in addition to being the narrator of his story, sings a variety of songs with much appeal. There are ballads of romance and anguish, and a very funny number called “My Boy in Blue,” a clever satire involving being busted by a cop in a raid on the club. The musical achieves added poignancy by being concerned with the blatant police prejudice against gays that led to the Stonewall revolt.
Ultimately, The Pianist heads for his own career in California, and love-sick Trevor goes west to seek him out. But by this time, The Pianist is embarrassed by a gay past and is extremely cruel by accusing Trevor of stalking him and rejecting Trevor, not only for his sexuality but for a lack of enough talent.
The show unfolds in different time frames, and some of it is confusing, suggesting, for example, that Trevor is seriously ill and abandoned except for his parents. But a final twist (no detailed spoiler here) involves an unusual survivor bit.
Director Max Friedman keeps the plot moving, but the story, for all its sincerity, becomes maudlin and drawn out at times. There are always the convincing performances, and Bolen has a knockout voice and appealing demeanor. There is also an excellent band consisting of Josh Bailey on drums; Nick Grinder, trombone; Brian Krock, alto sax, clarinet, flute; David Neves, trumpet, and Robert Pawlings, bass. At the York Theatre at St. Peter’s, East 54th Street at Lexington Avenue. Phone: 212-935-5820. Reviewed October 12, 2018.