Fringe Review: The Pop Musical Diary of a Gay Man

Executive Director of PhillyGayCalendar

How do you make the tired tale of “coming out” relevant in 2015? Add über catchy pop songs sung by amazingly talented people and stick them on a hyper-realistic, by fringe standards, stage. Add some fun light cues along side campy moments that turn into some overly dramatic moments and you’ve got the Fringe show with the longest title (I checked) – "The Pop Musical Diary of a Gay Man." 


Let’s start things off with the good. The power ballads sung by the female leads Martha Marie Wassner and Brianna Roth gave me all of the feels. Unfortunately Brianna was kept hidden for the first act and I would have loved to have heard her belt some more. What filled the void was the impressively, mind blowing, out of nowhere, sent from the gods performance by the mother figure, Alexandra Rush. She stood defiantly defending her son to her husband via the song “Titanium,” and for the first time in a while I was tempted to give an actress a mid-show standing o. Speaking of singing, the harmonies and mash-ups of the show were tight, props go to the musical arranger (not listed in the program). Part of the reason the harmonies worked, is the dedication of the shows lead (Adam Hoyak) he managed to create an amazing emotional arc; though he started the show weak and confused so when he hit his emotional climax, I stopped breathing and held onto his every word. What was even more impressive was Adam’s ability to add humor quips via short asides geared towards the audience. Also noted is the resilience of Frankie Rowles (who plays Adam’s love interest, Greg). The character gets beat down verbally by two actors for the last 2/3 of the show and somehow manages to avoid breaking down or losing focus. The score (which might not be legal?) is filled with songs you already love, but the lyrics have been repurposed to facilitate the movement of the story, and they fit gorgeously. 


It should be noted that my complaints with the show are purely with the conception, that being said this is a fringe show; I have no doubt if/ when it gets remounted for it’s third iteration some of what I see as rocky and rough will be re-worked. There seems to be an identity crisis going on within the show, there were moments of pure campy-ness next to moments of powerful emotion. Unfortunately, the moments weren't blended correctly which made it difficult to know if it was okay to laugh. The divide seemed to resonate within the cast, some characters beefed up the campiness, while others were giving emotion as if their life depended on it. Neither objective is inherently bad, they just didn’t mesh. Similarly there was a divide between hyper-realism and symbolism in the telling of the story. The set was hyper-realistic, but in front of the set were masked, dressed in black actors representing the demons of the characters as they sang. Again, neither choice was inherently bad, it just led to a disconnect between me and my relationship with the storyline.


Overall, “The Pop Musical Diary of a Gay Man” satisfied my need for some upbeat mind-less theatre. I left in an elevated mood and went straight to Knock for karaoke because after listening talented people belt their faces off, I wanted in on the fun. If you're feeling up for a lighthearted, catchy musical evening check out TPMDOAGM here. 

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