Kathy reviews '21 Chump Street' and 'ExMen: Not About Superheroes' 

click to enlarge Derek Scott and Amyalize Santiago in "21 Chump Street." - PHOTO BY KATHY LALUK
  • PHOTO BY KATHY LALUK
  • Derek Scott and Amyalize Santiago in "21 Chump Street."

If you know what you’re doing, you don’t need a long time to convey emotion and a point. Lin-Manuel Miranda knows what he’s doing. The mastermind behind “Hamilton” and “In the Heights” turned a true story from “This American Life” into a quick, down-and-dirty, 15-minute musical.

It follows Justin (Derek Scott), a high-schooler who is enamored with a new classmate, Naomi (Amyalize Santiago) and will go to any length to get her to like him and go to prom with him. Even if that means getting drugs for her. What Justin doesn’t know is that Naomi is actually an undercover police officer investigating drug activity at his school. In just five short musical numbers, the show tackles what it’s like to be a modern teenager dealing with drugs, first love, acceptance, consequences of your actions, and growing up.

As the leads, Scott and Santiago shine, both vocally and emotionally. Scott croons easily through the catchy melodies and exudes sadness when he learns the truth about Naomi and what that means for his future. The dialogue can be a little tricky to pick up at times, especially when the chorus is moving metal chairs on and off the stage. Narrators help move the story along quickly and efficiently. It’s amazing how much genuine emotion and humor these young performers are able to pack in in just the span of a typical intermission.

21 Chump Street will not be performed again at Rochester Fringe 2019.


click to enlarge "ExMen: Not About Superheroes" at Java's cafe. - PHOTO BY ASHLEIGH DESKINS
  • PHOTO BY ASHLEIGH DESKINS
  • "ExMen: Not About Superheroes" at Java's cafe.
A technical hiccup delayed “ExMen: Not About Superheroes” Monday night, but the small crowd packed into Java’s café was loyal enough to wait until a keyboard arrived for Nazareth College senior Abby Hazlett’s solo cabaret about her ex-boyfriends. The 22-year-old admits she may not have found love yet, but she wears her heart on her sleeve through a series of covers and at least one original song about her experiences — good, bad, and even funny.

A number about the woes of being female and trying to find a guy in the world of musical theater is particularly funny and is riddled with Broadway references for all those theater-geeks in the audience (yours truly included).

The highlight for me was (from what I could tell) an original piece she wrote about her first love, how she dealt with that breakup and how she learned to move on. Hazlett’s voice soars on the ballad with a tenderness beyond her years, allowing you to really feel the emotion behind the words. She ends on a sillier note (perhaps one she wants to send to her exes) by singing Ariana Grande’s “Thank U, Next,” which had the audience snapping and singing along.

ExMen: Not About Superheroes will be performed again Thursday, September 19 at 7 p.m. at Java’s Café. It is free and appropriate for ages 13 and up.
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