REVIEW: ‘bare: A Pop Opera’ at the Luna Theater

Executive Director of PhillyGayCalendar

"bare," also known as "bare: A Pop Opera" and "bare the musical," is a rock musical with a story that focuses on two gay high school students and their struggles at their private, Catholic boarding school. Debuting in the early 2000’s, the show was an instant “cult” favorite with its popularity growing steadily until it became a “pop culture” favorite that’s produced rather frequently. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing this upbeat, yet gut wrenching musical which features stereotypical high school characters in a non-sterotypical way. I’ve always found the music to be catchy and addicting, and find myself listening to the cast recording for days after every performance I see. I had a chance to talk with one of the gentleman stuck in the struggle of a gay relationship, Jared Rosenberg. 

Chris Balbi: In 1 tweet or less, what is "bare" about?
Jared Rosenberg: "bare" is about the struggle to let true love exist freely under the pressures of the Catholic church and its views on homosexuality. 

CB: Tell me about your character? Do you relate?
JR: Peter is a boy with so much personality and so much love inside of him but he's just so scared to let it out. He is a romantic and he tries to let that out with his boyfriend, but he is forced to continue stifling himself in school every day. He believes love can set him free and he clings to that for his life… I definitely relate to Peter. When I was in the closet, I was very much the same way – terrified of being noticed and trying to play my role as an extra in other peoples' lives, then secretly choreographing dances to GaGa in my room alone.

CB: Who is the target audience for this show? 
JR: I think the target audience for this show is the entire LGBTQIA because the story is so relatable for so many members of the community that it helps to strengthen us all and our relationships with ourselves, above all.

CB: What's the one song that is always stuck in your head?
JR: The song that I always have stuck in my head is probably the act one finale, "One." It's just so loaded with emotion and drive and the harmonies are so cool!

CB: When you're not on stage, what are you doing?
JR: When I'm not on stage I'm probably dancing somewhere, playing with puppies, or watching Food Network because pizza and burritos kind of get old after a while.

I also had a chance to talk with a more seasoned actor (read: Silver Fox). I wanted to get a more mature outlook on the content of the show.  

Chris Balbi: Give me a sentence or two that describes the arch of the story.  
Paul McElwee: It is a coming of age story in which high school seniors deal with the road blocks in life and how to move forward… more specifically for the central couple in the story, it is a tale of forbidden love and acceptance; acceptance of your own feelings and how those around you accept what's out of the norm.

CB: What is your character's role in the show? 
PM: I play a Catholic priest who obviously represents the church and what might interfere with the way young men and women choose to live their lives. He represents authority and religious direction in the lives of these students.

CB: Do you feel connected to the character? Is he easy to slip into?
PM: I grew up in a conservative Catholic family and came out late in life partly because of that, so I feel very connected to the story and what this character represents. It's always interesting to play the antagonist, so slipping into this character is fun.

CB: Is there something you feel younger gays take for granted, is it relevant to the story of the show? 
PM: I think some might take the [LGBT community's] struggle for granted. There are lots of other things I think many younger gays take for granted, but they're not necessarily related to this show.

CB: Do you think this show will age well?
PM: Sadly, yes… there will always be fear; fear of what we don't know, fear of not being accepted, fear of following your heart when what's ahead is completely foreign to you. Everyone's journey is unique, important, and relatable.

"bare: the Pop Opera" runs June 5th through the 13th at the Luna Theater Company, more info can be found on the Facebook event – 

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