Off-Broadway Review: “Play Like A Winner” at the New York Musical Festival at the Peter Jay Sharp Theater

Off-Broadway Review: “Play Like a Winner” at the New York Musical Festival at the Peter Jay Sharp Theater (Closed Sunday July 30, 2017)
Book and Lyrics by Erik Johnke
Music by David Wolfson
Directed by Kevin Connors
Reviewed by Joseph Verlezza
Theatre Reviews Limited

The new musical “Play Like a Winner” is based on the stage play “It’s All About the Kids” by Caytha Jentis which comically explores the dark side of competitive soccer moms vying for social status in upscale suburbia. The opening musical number “Sacrifice” is sung by the company surrounding the body of the coach lying dead, center stage impaled with a field flag. The story then begins to unfold with flashbacks leading up to this horrific event. Starting with Kathy (played with Stepford Wife drive by Jessica Tyler Wright) trying to convince her introverted bullied daughter Jenna (portrayed with equal parts angst, determination and vulnerability by Zoe Wilson) to join the soccer team to boost her self-esteem. Mission accomplished and Kathy then finds herself faced with the onslaught of abuse hurled by the leader of the soccer mom club Melissa (a strong, vicious and vindictive Casey Erin Clark) and robust, sexist coach Nick, (played with appropriate arrogance and a formidable baritone by Nicholas Dromard). In a sub plot best friend Tracy (a charming and pleasant Megan Kane) is losing her husband Gary (Frank Viveros, a comedic bombshell with a silky smooth vocal) to a bromance with Coach Nick. All this and the continuing predictable escapades that follow, lead to the foreshadowed demise featured in the opening prologue.

The book and lyrics provided by Erik Johnke are not clever enough to produce the undercurrents of a true satire but rather remain on the surface with a loutish book and relying on vulgar lyrics to produce laughs. This shock value soon wears thin and becomes abrasive with no redeeming qualities. The music by David Wolfson in unobtrusive and produces some pleasant melodies but at times does not support the intent of the song.

The cast is remarkable and does what they can to elevate the material. It is a pleasure to just sit and listen to their strong vocal, infused with character and pure tonal qualities that linger far after the music ends. They effortlessly execute the pedestrian choreography of Pin Van Amerongen and energetically keep a steady pace under the astute direction of Kevin Connors. As it plays now it may provide a bit of raunchy fun but needs to revamp and find its target audience. Cautionary note: “Play Like a Winner” is not recommended for the sixteen and under audience.