It’s hard to imagine how anyone could tell such a gut-wrenching, personal story to audiences night after night without going over the edge, but Abigail Bengson — who performs with husband Shaun in The Bengsons— is doing just that in “The Lucky Ones,” now playing at the historic Connelly Theater in Manhattan’s East Village.
The piece is charming and entertaining, but gripping and emotionally exhausting at the same time. It’s much more emotional, at least to me, than their previous musical, “Hundred Days.”
I regretted waiting so late in the game — not until Black Friday last year at New York Theater Workshop — to see the Bengsons’ first musical, which centered on their quirky love-and-marriage story. By then it was in what seemed like it umpteenth incarnation. I had passed up opportunities to see earlier versions at Joe’s Pub, The Public Theater’s Under the Radar Series, and probably other venues.
Romeo (Damon Daunno) and Juliet (Kelly Barrett) in the Williamstown Theatre Festival production of The Last Goodbye. (Photo by Sam Hough)
When The Last Goodbye blossomed on the stage of downtown Manhattan nightspot Joe’s Pub in April 2009, Will You Miss Me When I’m Gone? knew director Michael Kimmel (who also conceived and adapted this show) and his collaborators were onto something good. The idea of pairing the lyrics and music of tragic pop star Jeff Buckley with Shakespeare’s story of tragic lovers, Romeo and Juliet, had an instant appeal.
And it took shape well onstage. My mind was blown by that early reading. It went through some changes, was re-presented in New York City this March, and now it’s taking a polished form at the Williamstown Theatre Festival in Massachusetts.
Many members of that original Joe’s Pub cast remain with the show. And that’s for good reason. They’re great.
Word of mouth
We haven’t yet seen this fully staged version, which opened on Saturday and runs through Aug. 20. But the word is very good. A friend of this blog who saw the Joe’s Pub version calls the Williamstown production “quite good,” with “much better integration of the bard’s language.”