NEW YORK (AP) — Romance can be as elusive as it is enchanting, which might explain the odd choice of title for the lighthearted rock musical "F---- Up Everything," which opened Sunday at the Elektra Theatre.
The opening number of the classic boy-meets-girl romantic comedy provides a tidy introduction to its eclectic, energetic cast of characters, a group of recent college grads prowling Brooklyn's late-night music and dating scenes.
An up-and-coming indie rock band called Ironic Maiden is playing its final song at a local dive bar. The band's too-cool-for-school singer Jake (Jason Gotay) screams the vacuous lyrics of the musical's punky title song, as his best friends dance nearby, dutifully playing the part of adoring fans.
Ivy (Dawn Cantwell) is dating the bass player, Tony (Douglas Widick), but she secretly longs for Jake. Christian (Max Crumm), is a painfully awkward but likable puppeteer who has spent most of his life in Jake's shadow.
The crew's balance is soon disrupted by the arrival of a new girl in town, Ivy's friend Juliana (Katherine Cozumel), an aspiring singer-songwriter from California who predictably stumbles into the predatory crosshairs of both Jake and Christian.
With music and lyrics by David Eric Davis, the songs range from Ivy's sweetly rendered ballad "If You Were Mine," to Tony's equally affectionate but laughable reggae jingle, "Me and My Bong," which he performs from the sofa in his apartment.
Other highlights include Jake and Christian's "bromantic" duet "Be My Bro," and a neatly theatrical moment in which Jake and Ivy sing a clever stop-time number called "Awkward Silence."
The actors play instruments onstage and the band features some impressively crisp guitar solos and rocking drum fills. But despite the show's edgy title, the score is considerably tame and ultimately undercut by the goofy humor and lengthy scenes in Davis and Sam Forman's airily silly book.
While there are several conspicuously trendy pop-culture references and a number of scenes set in some of Brooklyn's real-life hipster hangouts, there isn't much about this farcical show that strikes one as genuinely hip.
Still, the production doesn't take itself seriously and does have undeniable heart, thanks in large part to its bright, young cast and Crumm's performance in particular.
As Christian, the love-struck nerd at the center of Davis and Forman's tale, he has a capable voice and keeps the audience laughing, even providing some "Avenue Q"-style flair when he breaks out his unusual collection of celebrity puppets, which include Noam Chomsky and Iggy Pop.
Crumm was the winner of NBC's 2007 reality series "Grease: You're the One that I Want" and had the distinct honor of playing Mike "The Situation" Sorrentino in "Jersey Shoresical: A Frickin' Rock Opera."
He makes for an unconventional leading man in "F---- Up Everything," which was originally produced in 2009 and won the New York Musical Theatre Festival's award for best book.
But it's easy to empathize with the seemingly hopeless Christian, who doesn't have a clue about the opposite sex, but won't allow that to deter him, even if it means asking his puppets for advice.
In one counseling session, the imaginary Iggy Pop tells him, "Christian, you've got to be way more punk rock about this whole dating thing."
Maybe Iggy was right.
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