Like most musicals of the past decade Pasek and Paul’s show is reminiscent of Jason Robert Brown’s Songs For A New World and The Last Five Years. The music feels current, it’s catchy, yet strikingly beautiful, and it flies, belts and rocks to the very end. What sets edges apart distinctly is that its target audience seems to be the twenty- something crowd- a group poised on the brink of continual massive shifts in their worlds as they try to figure out which path to take, where to go, what to do and how to do it. There are few answers on this road to self-discovery, but the questions, the issues, the experiences seem to unite the entire room in an instant.
Man #1 sings: “I’m only working at this Pizza Hut to pay my way through college.” Woman #1 and Woman #2 sing: “I wish I had my sister back, my stupid, ugly sister back” and in those two lines the audience has recognized this journey of awkward connection and insecure decisions- that moment when we really don’t know who we are.
Producers Sara Farb and Gabi Epstein have set their production of edges up as a staged reading to give their audience an introduction to Pasek and Paul’s charming show with the intention of developing it further. The reading feels like a well-rehearsed piece, the performances are electrifying, heartfelt, poignant, and leave the actors charmingly vulnerable, a sensation many musicals don’t have the courage to explore.
Jordan Bell’s eyes frequently sparkle- the emotional journey of his character ignited with enthusiasm and tenderness. He has one of those beautiful voices that make audiences wish they could curl up inside it and have it wash over them like a blanket. Eric Craig shines especially in the wildly funny “In Short” which shows off not only the breadth of his acting talents but also the range of his beautiful voice. Gabi Epstein, with her gorgeous belty voice and delightfully expressive face, is especially heart wrenching as the young Haley who grieves her older sister’s entry into adolescence. Sara Farb, with a voice I would liken to a young Idina Menzel, radiates a mixture of joy and pride which she infuses into each song perfectly. The keyboard played by Reza Jacobs is flawless and fittingly animated, as well as the percussion played by Jamie Drake.
One of the most interesting things about attending a reading of any sort is the fact that the actors drift in and out of themselves, and therefore it is easy to catch glimpses of something real amongst the songs and the characters and the stage. As intrigued as we are about actors and theatre, what tends to be more captivating is the curtain call, the blooper, that shining moment of truth among artifice. Watching the actors watch one another with their smiles, and shining, supportive eyes, it is clear how much this show was a labour of love to produce. The audience leaps to its feet and applauds steadily, the actors look sheepish- almost surprised- this project they care so much about has exceeded their expectations. That is a truly lovely and rare thing to bear witness to onstage.
Jordan Bell, Eric Craig, Gabi Epstein, Sara Farb. Write their names down. I expect that we will hear great things from them in the future. And for now, there’s always Facebook.