Charlie ( Tom Schmid) is a brand new doting father. Though he never imagined that he would have to raise a child alone, his new daughter Emily is the new love of his life. A prolific jingle writer, Charlie shares his love for music with his daughter. It seems, however, that the musical talent is hereditary.
By the age of ten, Emily ( Darcy Rose Byrnes) has the refined ear of a pro – like her mother - and a deep devotion to song, like her father. Emily’s entire world is small but perfect. She has Rosa ( Elena Campbell-Martinez), the family’s dedicated housekeeper, her father Charlie, the ocean, which her father taught her to think of as her mother’s favorite place, and of course music. But Emily’s world is suddenly shattered when her father does not return from a routine business trip to the East Coast.
Emily is forced to go live with her aunt and uncle in a crowded apartment where people are constantly fighting; where singing and music are frowned upon.
Charlie has not abandoned Emily as everyone thinks. The victim of a mugging that left him critically injured, Charlie remains consciousness after five month, suffering from amnesia. Sarah ( Cassidy Brown), the doctor in charged of his rehabilitation takes an immediately liking to him. Charlie’s new name becomes Mick Richards.
Fast forward ten years. Emily ( Lindsay Haun) is a struggling singer/songwriter who drifts from one bad relationship to the next, with music as her only constant. She gravitates to losers who will hurt her, so it is no wonder that she never would have noticed Edward ( Carmine Dibenedetto) if her fellow waitress Amber ( Jenny Weaver) has not pointed the young lawyer out. Edward is kind, funny, likes Emily’s music and is also an orphan. Most importantly, Rosa likes Edward.
Charlie has started a new life with Sarah. The janitor at a high school, he recommits to writing music and slowly commits to making it the center of his life, again.
Emily and Edward are a couple when she finally gets her big break. Edward has always wanted Emily to success. He just never realized that he would have to compete with her music to save Emily from herself.
Emily’s Song is a good show. This production is not actually a musical, but rather a play with live music. Leads Lindsay Haun and Tom Schmid give vocal performances that are really great – heartfelt with clarity and confidence. The music is also quite good. Amanda Holmes, Tom Shepard and Chet Holmes compose a collection of songs that stand out outside the context of the show. From rock ballad to lullaby, each song is heartfelt and soulful, making them completely in character for our heroine.
The show does go on a bit. The play spends lots of extra time piling on the emotionality and at times it feels heavy handed. Every actor gives solid, passionate performances. There is no need to linger in the scenes with over-exposition, milking that one last tug at the heartstrings. There are lots of very short scene that could be condensed or even cut with some judicious editing. The script could be served well to heed my favorite writing tip from the great David Mamet: “In late, out early.”
Emily’s Song is billed as “ an epic musical journey…” While it is true that the story is vast, it may be too big for this stage. Once Emily’s career takes off, she is supposed to be entering a whole new world. Haun’s wardrobe changes drastically, but after a while, you do begin to see the sparse stage. If it is the feeling of emptiness the director is going for, Haun's performance gives that to us by the boatload. Creating that new world visually would help to sustain the illusion for the audience and help build the momentum – not that this show has a problem with pacing, just with repetition. Employing a radically different lighting design for the performance numbers would do wonders in transporting the audience into this new exciting and lonely chapter of Emily’s life.
Overall Emily's Song is a fine production. Director Chet Holmes has assembled a fine company of actors to tell this bittersweet about love, lost and the sustaining power of music.
Emily’s Song runs now through February 27, 2011 at:
Hudson Backstage Theatre
6539 Santa Monica Blvd.
Hollywood, CA 90038