Book by Timothy Allen McDonald, based on the book by Jodi Picoult and Samantha van Leer
Music and Lyrics by Elyssa Samsel and Kate Anderson
Directed by Jeff Calhoun
Choreographed by Paul McGill
Music direction by Daniel Green
Tony Kiser Theater
Through Sept. 11. 2022
By Lauren Yarger
Sometimes stories have happy endings. Sometimes they just make you feel happy. Between the Lines, a new musical based on the book by Judi Picoult and her daughter, Samantha van Leer, is an example of both and is a refreshing, engaging theater experience.
The story combines fantasy, fairytales and reality in a fun tale of awkward teen Deliliah (Arielle Jacobs) trying to find her place in the world after her parents split. She gets off on the wrong foot with her new high school's social queen, Allie McAndres (Hillary Fisher), -- or should I say knee? Deliliah accidently breaks her classmate's knee with a baseball bat. OK, I was laughing already before we met Allie's dumb jock boyfriend, Ryan (a very funny Will Burton). Delilah's mom, Grace (Julia Murney), who is coping with being dumped, paying the bills and trying to go back to school, has little time to notice how difficult things are for her daughter too.
Ms. Winx (Vicki Lewis) introduces Delilah to a special book. "Between the Lines," of which there is only one copy, self published. The school librarian has escaped into the pages of books herself and Composers and Lyricists Elyssa Samsel and Kate Anderson, making their New York debut, give Lewis a humorous number, "Mr. Darcy and Me" to let Delilah know it's OK that she is falling for one of the characters in the fairytale she carries around with her everywhere.
He is Prince Oliver (a perfectly cast and charmingly voiced Jake David Smith), but Delilah's secret is that he literally is stepping out of the pages of the book to chat with her. In a delightful switch to make believe, Director Jeff Calhoun, Lighting Designer Jason Lyons and Choreographer Paul McGill bring the book to life as Prince Oliver enters Delilah's world, then later again in act two, when she enters the pages of his story. Lyons does wonders with some action behind scrim and McGill shines with having Oliver's movements mimic Delilah's actions with the book. Scenic Designer Tobin Ost borders both worlds with shelves and shelves of books.
In the book, Allie is Oliver's princess, but there isn't any real love between them. Ryan is in love with her in this world too, but has been turned into a dog called Frump. A number of the other characters have dual roles and other storylines in the parallel world as well. Will Delilah and Oliver find a way to be together? Will Delilah and her mom learn to communicate? Will Allie get her comeuppance and will Ryan ever stop making us laugh with his puzzled, vacant looks?
The answers are worth buying a ticket to discover. The story, adapted by Timothy Allen McDonald, and the music (orchestrations and arrangements by Gregory Rassen and music direction by Daniel Green) is engaging and appeals to young and old alike. At intermission, I was astonished at how much had happened in such a short time (the whole show runs about two hours and 20 minutes with 24 songs). It offers a wonderfully well developed female protagonist as well as a lot of other good female roles.
One criticism is the heavy-handed lecturing we get from Delilah's friend, Jules (Wren Rivera), who identifies as non-binary. We get it and the bullying reaction of the classmates. We don't need it explained in a preachy manner. We are supposed to be able to read between the lines, right? Another knit pick is noise from backstage as actors change position or props are moved.
Between the Lines is clever, fun and engaging. The magic is ephemeral, however, as the run at the Tony Kiser Theater, 305 W. 43rd St., is limited through Sept. 11.
Jerusha Cavazos, John Rapson, Sean Stack
- God's name taken in vain.
- Non-binary character
- Homosexual references