Something's Going On

[The following review is scheduled to appear in The Denver Post the week of October 22nd.]

Is the universe ordered or chaotic and, in either case, how does this condition affect our everyday lives? For Sonny Tatulio, a middle-aged musician who's been driven to the brink, and Dr. Maggie McBride, his therapist, the answers are: both and directly. Beneath the seeming randomness of their lives there is a reason they've been brought together and to believe Something's Going On—a phrase which holds the triple-duty of being the theme and title of this world premiere musical and the name of the new production company behind it.

Sherrie Scott as Dr. Maggie McBride and Jim Mossuto as Sonny Tatulio
Sherrie Scott as Dr. Maggie McBride
and Jim Mossuto as Sonny Tatulio
Principles, playwrights, and performers Jim Mossuto and Sherrie Scott take us on a journey of discovery from the typical doctor-patient relationship to one of profound spiritual connection by intertwining real stories, dreams, flashbacks, and visions within the context of a play with 12 songs.

Adorned only in a top hat and sneakers, with his nakedness hidden by a sign that reads, Something's Going On, Sonny is ready to jump off a Times Square ledge on Halloween night. Like Vesuvius, Mossuto's Sonny is boiling over with anxieties that come pouring forth in a flow of descriptive, free-associative imagery and prescient pronouncements.

Ever the proper MD, Scott builds on Maggie's clinical manner and professional patience. Even as Sonny zeroes in on her own bottled-up secrets, Maggie keeps her cool and gently questions her patient, joining in his game of pulling real-life stories from his top hat in an effort to draw him out of his precipitous state.

After Maggie prescribes a piano for her patient, and gradually warms up to Sonny's musical statements and rambling raps, the tables turn and now it's Mossuto who shows Sonny's own penchant for insightful analysis, while Scott brings Maggie out her shell, singing and sharing her own troubles.

Mossuto's inventive, jazzy compositions, augmented by his stylish keyboard wizardry, and Scott's soulful, smoky vocals argue strongly for the therapeutic effect performed by their music (they both contributed compositions to the production) on Sonny and Maggie.

The dramatic arc is a rabbit out of a hat as well, with Sonny's early stream-of-consciousness meanderings leaving us to wonder whether chaos might not win the day both in the story and in our experience of it. But the music steps up and, in a strong second act that springs from a clever book, Mossuto and Scott weave a tapestry of details that are both heartwarming and surprising, leaving us to reflect on the magic of our own lives.

Something's Going On follows the 2004-5 presentation of Jacques Brel is Alive and Well & Living in Paris! in the Theatre Café's recent experiments as an alternative cabaret-style venue in the DPAC atrium, offering dinner, desert, and appetizers as well as a full bar. The café's willingness to take a chance on Mossuto, Scott, and producer and co-director Chip Frye's off-beat approach bodes well for the DCPA's growing ambitions as one of the best-equipped and diverse performing arts centers in the world.

Something's Going On runs through December 2nd at the Theatre Cafe. 303-623-7733.

Bob Bows


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