A Muscular Modern Rock Musical, ‘The Lonely Few’ Is Also Queer and Quaint

Lovingly directed by Trip Cullman and Ellenore Scott, ‘Few’ emerges as a charming — if largely unsurprising — showcase for its gifted young cast members.

Joan Marcus
Lauren Patten, Taylor Iman Jones, and Helen J Shen in 'The Lonely Few.' Joan Marcus

Is it possible for a musical that features a modern rock score and is centered on a queer love story to be quaint? The answer is a resounding yes, as anyone who checks out the new off-Broadway production of “The Lonely Few” will discover, long before its hour and 45 minutes have elapsed.

Arriving at New York after having its premiere at Los Angeles last year, “Few” introduces us to Amy, a rising singer/songwriter trying to nurture a solo career, and Lila, another talented young woman who is relegated by circumstance to fronting a local band in her home in Kentucky. It’s a tale of girl-meets-girl, girl-almost-loses-girl, unfolding in Paul’s Juke Joint — the dive where Lila’s group, the Lonely Few, holds court — but also taking Amy and Lila on tour, where their initially tentative flirtation blossoms into something substantial.

Lila is played by Lauren Patten, who won a Tony Award four years ago for her performance in “Jagged Little Pill,” another rock musical inspired by the blockbuster Alanis Morissette album of the same name. Ms. Patten has a big, boisterous voice with a tremulous, ornate vibrato; she sings with a technical prowess and a penchant for pure melodrama worthy of Freddie Mercury. 

Yet Lila is also shy and awkward; her life has been one of sacrifice and repressed passion, holding down a day job to help take care of her troubled older brother while hiding longings that might scandalize her neighbors. That begins to change once Amy rolls into town: As portrayed by an easily sensuous Taylor Iman Jones, the more established singer harbors her own insecurities, but also exudes a confidence and warmth that help coax Lila, gradually, out of her shell.

Lauren Patten and Taylor Iman Jones in ‘The Lonely Few.’ Joan Marcus

The book, by Rachel Bonds — last represented on the New York stage, earlier this year, by the more genuinely provocative “Jonah” — is weighed down a bit by contrivances. The most jarring involves Lila’s brother, Adam, played here with moving sensitivity by Peter Mark Kendall: Lila is initially inclined to reject a shot at freedom and success just because she is afraid to leave him behind, but once on the road, she ignores his phone calls.

Still, as lovingly directed by Trip Cullman and Ellenore Scott, “Lonely Few” emerges as a charming — if largely unsurprising — showcase for its gifted young cast members. They also include Damon Daunno as Lila’s bandmate Dylan, an expectant father starting to worry about his future, and Helen J Shen as the group’s youngest member, a perky keyboardist named JJ. 

Veteran actor Thomas Silcott brings a gentle authority and earthy humor to the role of Paul, the club’s middle-aged owner, who happens to have lived with Amy’s mother during pivotal years in her youth and is now hoping to reconnect. “I’m not in the market for advice from you,” Amy tells Paul late in the show, to which he responds, “Well, I think you are. I think that’s why you finally came by my bar all those many weeks ago.”

Composer/lyricist Zoe Sarnak’s score, which combines muscular rockers with tender acoustic ballads, accommodates the musical’s rather predictable arc; the final number, the pining “Always Wait For You,” is excerpted in parts before being revealed in full. “I wrote it for someone who I dreamed about and then, uh … she actually came along,” Lila explains. “And then things didn’t work out and I never got to play it for her.”

You can probably guess, roughly, what happens next. Yet if “The Lonely Few” won’t hold you in suspense, this production’s abundance of talent and heart will at least hold your attention.

The New York Sun

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