Details matter in high school. The right friends, the right cliques, the right clothes can make all the difference between fitting in and feeling left out. Or in the case of “Calvin Berger,” Minneapolis Musical Theatre’s latest area premiere, maybe it’s all just a matter of having the right nose.
Barry Wyner’s perky little musical is a modern riff on “Cyrano de Bergerac,” set in the angst-ridden confines of a high school. Brainy, fast-talking Calvin is besotted with lovely, if somewhat dim, heartthrob Rosanna. He’s convinced, however, that she won’t look twice at him because of the size of his nose. She, meanwhile, yearns for hunky, but tongue-tied Matt, the new kid in school. The two young men hatch a familiar plan whereby Matt will woo Rosanna with Calvin’s eloquence. Meanwhile Calvin’s best friend, Bret, pines in the wings, waiting for Calvin to see her as more than a buddy.
While “Calvin Berger” doesn’t pretend to come close to the complexity and pathos of Rostand’s masterpiece, the musical provides a clever little vehicle for a parable about self-esteem and teenage anxiety. Turns out, everybody in high school is insecure, from the jocks and the beauty queens to the nerds and the geeks. Who knew? There are some amusing moments here as the four actors bounce through 19 pop-infused musical numbers while the plot twists and turns in its journey toward a happy ending for all.
Gregory Adam, who recently appeared as a smarmy con man in MMT’s “Eating Raoul,” offers a straightforward and serviceable performance as Calvin. He provides a nice foil for Logan Greene’s Matt, a charming dope who’s more comfortable doing one-armed pushups than discussing, well, anything. “We’re the Man,” their duet about how combining their very different assets will produce the perfect suitor for Rosanna, is one of the comic highlights of the show.
Kecia Rehkamp brings a strong voice to the role of Bret, particularly in her eloquent “Saturday Alone” number. Emily Madigan rounds out the cast as the vacuous Rosanna and figures in one of the musical’s most hilarious scenes, when Greene woos her while being coached by Calvin through his phone earpiece.
Between a corny plotline and a less-than-memorable score, “Calvin Berger” is a slim little piece, and director Joshua James Campbell wisely keeps the pace snappy and the tone light, transitioning quickly from scene to scene. It’s a clever approach that allows an eager cast and sprightly production to eke out some charm from a musical that’s not much at all.
Lisa Brock writes about theater.