In `Glory Days,' 4 best friends deal with trying to grow up

By: AP
By: AP

NEW YORK (AP) -- "Glory Days" is an eager pop-rock musical examining past, present and future - as seen through the eyes of four best friends, a quartet of guys who have returned home after their first year of college.

It's a modest show, barely 90 minutes in length, with not much plot but plenty of emotion as it attempts to sort out the thoughts and feelings of these young men who still have some growing up to do - and maybe growing out of relationships with their high school pals.

Whether that's enough for big, bad Broadway is doubtful, but "Glory Days," which opened Tuesday at Circle in the Square, does offer an antidote to spectacle and, for once, isn't based on a popular movie.

Nick Blaemire, who wrote the promising music and lyrics, and James Gardiner, who supplied the book, are barely older than the characters they have created. Both are in their early 20s. That lends an air of youthful authenticity to their work, an honesty that compensates for the sometimes obvious, messy way their reunion tale is told.

"Glory Days" takes place on the bleachers of a high school football field, although the four characters were not gridiron heroes. They were anything but. The lads bonded during high school because they were not among the more popular students.

Now they are back and planning a prank to avenge their past snubs and outsider status. That pretty much sums up the action, but while carrying out their plan, other secrets are awkwardly revealed.

The foursome are a convenient cross-section of types, ingratiatingly and enthusiastically played by Steven Booth, Andrew C. Call, Adam Halpin and Jesse JP Johnson. Director Eric Schaeffer allows their exuberance to flourish with surprising naturalness.

The evening's main character is apparent right from the start. Will is a writer and the show's nominal narrator. Portrayed by Booth with just the right mixture of amiability and insecurity, he's the one who calls out for a continuation of friendships that inevitably will begin to fade away.

Call's strutting, macho Andy is the most resentful, a rambunctious, stubborn youth unwilling to accept change even though he knows his refusal will mean the end of the special bond these young men once had.

Johnson plays Jack, the romantic one, and Halpin is Skip, the most cynical. Halpin gets to deliver one of Blaemire's more striking numbers: "Generation Apathy," singing, "We feed a need to never bleed unless we're absolutely sure, we go through painstaking means to never feel pain anymore."

Designer Jim Kronzer's simple bleacher setting is backed by what looks like a wall of blinding lights created by Mark Lanks, the kind of illumination that would light up a Friday night high school football game.

"Glory Days" is the opposite of slick. The show is a bit gawky and unsure of itself, much like the youthful characters it celebrates.

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