TOUCHTONES (Arden): 60-second review

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Photo by Mark Garvin.

TOUCHTONES, an anodyne new musical receiving its world premiere at the Arden Theatre Company, exists almost entirely in the abstract. According to press materials, the show’s setting is New York City in 1999 — but you’d never know that from the nondescript sets (by Tim Mackabee) or the indistinct ensemble, who imbue their characters with very little personality. This lack of style suits Robert Maggio’s instantly forgettable score, which sounds like something programmed into a Casio keyboard. Ostensibly about a young woman’s spiritual and carnal awakening through phone sex, it neither titillates nor liberates. Emmanuelle Delpach’s production merely glides from one underdeveloped scenario to another, as the performers try to sell Michael Hollinger’s schlocky lyrics, which sacrifice sense for the sake of rhyme. We never get to know Christine (Alex Keiper, singing sharp all night), the woman at the show’s center, or her fiancé (Michael Doherty, sinfully mugging); the secondary characters are stereotype repositories.

Take my advice and hang up on this treacly throwback.

[Arden Theatre Company, 40 N. 2nd Street]; October 19-December 3, 2017; ardentheatre.org.

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