Theater: “The Connector” at MCC
Remember a time when you couldn’t google something to make sure what you were reading was true? Jonathan Marc Sherman does, and his new musical “The Connector” (MCC Theater) hearkens back to the mid-1990s when print and real-live fact checkers reigned supreme.
The setting is the office of The Connector, a well-respected literary magazine (a la The New Yorker), run by old-school editor Conrad O’Brien (Scott Bakula). One day, he comes across a story submitted by a recent Princeton grad, Ethan Dobson (Ben Levi Ross). Conrad interviews Ethan, and is so impressed that he offers him a staff job on the spot.
Ethan is that guy you hate in the workplace—talented but such a sycophant you can’t wait for him to fail. Under Conrad’s mentorship, however, Ethan flourishes. He begins writing feature stories that make him the magazine’s wunderkind.
In his climb to the top, however, Ethan burns a few bridges—one with Robin (Hannah Cruz), a friend and co-worker. The executive assistant to the editor and a writer wannabe, Robin feels her submissions are being ignored because she’s not one of “the boys.”
Meanwhile, Muriel, the magazine’s long-time fact checker (Jessica Molaskey), is starting to find discrepancies in Ethan’s stories. Is this guy the real thing or has he been pulling the wool over the world’s eyes?
Regrettably, this well-meaning musical, which takes place in the 1990s, often feels as musty as the 1990s. Writing fictitious articles (a la Jayson Blair and Janet Malcolm) was more likely to happen in a print-friendly era when you couldn’t refer to Snopes or Google.
My second issue with “The Connector” is the score by Jason Robert Brown. It’s basically B-plus, with the exception of “Wind in My Sails” delivered by the phenomenally charismatic Fergie Philippe, who plays one of Ethan’s sources.
Other cast standouts include Ross who is a veritable whirling dervish as Ethan; Cruz, a great Broadway belter, who shines as the woman reporter scorned; and Bakula, the 1980s film actor who looks properly senatorial as The Connector’s editor-in-chief.
In short, “The Connector” while good is just not that exceptional. Or perhaps just as magazine-reading has gone out of fashion, plays about it have too.
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