4 A.M. BOOGIE BLUES, New Tuners Theatre, at the Theatre Building. It's common to assume that musicals must be epic sagas, full of blazing pyrotechnics and overblown theatricals, perhaps because of long-standing traditions on Broadway. But comparatively modest, intimate affairs like Schoolhouse Rock Live! have proved otherwise. And New Tuners' 4 a.m. Boogie Blues--presented last year in a staged reading and now receiving a full production--seems cut from much the same cloth.
But unlike Schoolhouse Rock Live! Marsha Meyers's and Jim Owen's new musical doesn't have a safety net of nostalgia. Though it's performed with enough irony to temper the overwhelming ham-handedness, neither the musical numbers nor the ho-hum characters are particularly engaging. Sullen file clerk Diana is too pathetic to warrant any sympathy, and the five bickering spirits who haunt her each night are too mean-spirited for us to like. Diana's fascination with staging her own funeral is entirely morbid, and uncomfortable silences rather than belly laughs generally greet the boogie monsters' vicious needling of her.
Perhaps the biggest strike against 4 a.m. Boogie Blues, however, is that it's performed a cappella. The musical simply doesn't have enough energy or cleverness to support the monotony of 13 similar-sounding numbers. Five boogie monsters keeping a woman awake with their doo-wop crooning is a cute enough concept, but it doesn't translate well to the stage: the novelty wears off about 15 minutes into the performance.