by Everett Goldner · August 20, 2014
Behind Closed Doors: The Musical makes its New York premiere in its fourth year of development; the show was hatched in L.A. in the wake of Prop 8, and its mixture of high-concept world-building with intimate solo and duo numbers makes for a heady cocktail that I wouldn’t be surprised to see arriving on Broadway down the line. Throughout the show, a maxim whose origin is long since lost to time, space, and even Google kept ringing in my head: the one about every age getting what it deserves. BCD may well be a story our age deserves richly.
I walked into the theater with no clue what to expect, aside from something vaguely Moulin Rouge-ish. What I got was indeed something vaguely Moulin Rouge-ish crossed with something darkly visionary. Consider the opening scene: a montage shifts between a straight couple trapped in a seemingly-conventional argument about sex, and a gay couple in the wake of a rendezvous, satiated and seeming in love. The straight couple argues until they’re ready for bed, then tries to make up: we know exactly where we are. The gay lovers exchange warm assurances, until one of them lets in his guards, who beat the other unconscious. The erstwhile lover steps out into the night… and where are we?
Throughout, BCD stakes its plot on ensuring that you’re never quite sure where you are or what’s coming next. No sooner have we established that this is a world where sexual acts are strictly regulated, than we meet an underground cabaret ensemble so detached from the mainstream and free with their bodies that they’ve forgotten what it’s like outside. We’ve long enough in their company to accept them as our heroes before one of them is chloroformed, beaten by the authorities and murdered in prison. The tiger twists again. It’s a show with high-energy group numbers to spare, but the song that most resonated with me was “All I Do,” a quiet, near-nursery rhyme sung by the head of the regime that stamps out deviancy; a tune of mutilated innocence and cruelty which reminded me of the Danny Elfman I grew up with. As someone who’s far more steeped in straight plays than musicals (I can count the musicals I know inside-out on one hand), I found the sea change that moves us between acts really sharp: act 1 is all flash, high spirits and intrigue, where act 2 is all reflection and social awareness. I very much doubt that BCD needs lots of publicity at this point: the 159-seat space at Theatre 80 was sold out the night I was there, and afterwards BCD’s writer/director director told me that it wasn’t due to marketing sourced from their end. So: is the show touching social issues deeply enough to provoke on a mass scale? Or did the world’s oldest profession just get a shiny new makeover and a soundtrack grown from 1984 and Cabaret? The answer, of course, is both, and I do suggest that you see it before it explodes.