Nov 16, 2012

"Bare" Back

Hartmere and Intrabartolo (photo by Linda Lenzi)
In 2000, a scrappy little rock musical—sorry, "pop opera"—called Bare became a sensation in the confines of Hollywood's Hudson Theater, the same place (though not exactly the same stage) where Reefer Madness had earlier been born. A coming-out love story set at a Catholic boarding school, it was intense and youthful and very crowded on the small stage; I remember there being quite a lot of lighting effects, amplification (in a 99-seat house!), and even stage fog (I may be misremembering). I wasn't as in love with it as some of my colleagues, but clearly Bare was something special, and marked the arrival of at least three theater talents to be reckoned with: Bookwriter/lyricist Jon Hartmere, composer Damon Intrabartolo, and director Kristin Hanggi (who would later make her name helming Rock of Ages).

It was something of a disappointment, then, when after sweeping the L.A. theater awards and garnering a lot of interest from New York producers—a deal was struck with MTV, the Roths, and the Public Theater at one point, but it fell through—Bare made it only briefly to New York in 2004 and got mixed reviews. A cast album was released in 2007, along with a licensed script, which has led to a jillion productions all over the world—a heartening development for the show's tolerant message, certainly, but not one that pointed to a future life for a show that may even have become a bit dated in the age of "It Gets Better" testimonials and a matter-of-factly gay Senator.

So it was with great pleasure and interest that I reported on a new Off-Broadway revival/revisal of Bare for the paper of record. As the piece details, the show has changed a bit to reflect the times—they've cut a gay-wedding fantasy scene from the original, since that's no longer so fantastical—but the core of its heartfelt message hasn't. My favorite quote on that is from Hanggi:
‘Bare’ is about the definition of God as love, and about erasing judgment, especially when we’re young and we feel surrounded by judgment, and the only light and divinity that can be found is in love.

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