“The Tutor” A New Musical Debuts at Village Theatre

Whoever said it was easy to raise a teenager? Teenage Sweetie’s rich, Manhattan parents find out it’s even harder than they expected. Sweetie isn’t doing well in school, but they can afford a tutor, the best, a Princeton graduate at $200 an hour. Surely he’ll straighten her out. All they hope for is that she aces the SATs and gets good grades so she can become a Princeton student herself, just like dear old Dad who seems unable to let go of his collegiate enthusiasm.9997-sm

Of course, it doesn’t go as planned. The tutor, an aspiring author, is actually a community college grad who happened on an easy way to support himself while working on his novel. But in some mysterious way, he and Sweetie click. In equally mysterious fashion she almost instantaneously discards her aggravating behavior and becomes his muse. Through her he loses his writer’s block and writes magnificent prose. She develops a crush on him; he breaks her adolescent heart; she runs away; and it all ends happily by final curtain.

The Village staging is quite effective. Issaquah High School senior Katie Griffith as Sweetie transitions from angst-ridden, moody teenager to maturing young adult. Eric Ankrim, who is back in Seattle after a Broadway run, does well as Edmund, the erstwhile tutor, and Hugh Hastings and Beth DeVries as Sweetie’s parents are equally effective in their roles. Kirsten Delohr Helland and Matthew Kacergis make spritely and charming characters from Edmund’s novel.

It’s the story line that is problematic here. I found myself asking how all the elements of this play fit together. How could the teenaged problem child be so perceptive about Edmund’s novel? Why a long encounter with a lesbian vegan? And what did Sweetie’s father’s extended plaintive lament on his decreasing sexual potency have to do with this tale of adolescent angst?

Book and lyrics are by Maryrose Wood and music by Andrew Gerle. David Ira Goldstein directs. Almost ten years in the making, “The Tutor” is a homegrown product developed collaboratively by the Eugene O’Neill Theatre Center in Waterford, Connecticut and as part of the Village Originals Series of New Musicals. For me it still needs more work.

Through April 27 at Francis J. Gaudette Theatre, 303 Front St. N., Issaquah, (425 392-2202, www.villagetheatre.org)
May 2 to 25 at Everett Performing Arts Center, 2710 Wetmore Ave., Everett, (425 257-8600)

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