There is a sequence in “Stuck, ” the new musical by Riley Thomas presented by La Costa Theatre, titled “The Subway Samba, ” and it is a musical bitch session about all that is wrong with public transportation. It is funny, irreverent and musically achieves a sense of camaraderie among the six strangers—“from six different walks of life”—who find themselves stranded on a late-night subway car. Unfortunately, like a typical Chicago train, it arrives much too late and despite its zippy David Zippel-inspired lyrics and catchy Latin rhythms is too little to make up for a dozen other unmemorable tunes saddled with trite lyrics and bound together by a mediocre book. Indeed, “Stuck,” a failed attempt to cross-pollinate the confessional heart of the 1970s musical “A Chorus Line” with the cynical edge of the 1980s movie “The Breakfast Club,” achieves neither the entertainment value of the former nor the psychological depth of the latter. Like “A Chorus Line,” the sequences and musical montages within “Stuck” often take place in the escapist imaginations or memories of its characters, sometimes revealing the psychology that makes them tick. Sometimes, unlike the former, they do nothing, not even entertain. (I’d like to ask of all aspiring Chicago—not “Chicago”—choreographers that unless you have permission from the late, great choreographer’s daughter Nicole herself, that you abstain from predictable and passé musical staging “in the style of Bob Fosse.” Just because you can attempt it, doesn’t mean that you should.) And like “The Breakfast Club,” you have a bunch of recognizable archetypes including the Princess, the Basket Case and the Nerd, but updated to reflect a multi-cultural and urban milieu including a sagacious homeless man, a snappy single and pregnant woman and the janitor with a heart of gold, all of them minorities by the way. Of the six-person cast there are no stand-out voices or performances that might have raised the mediocre material to greater heights, and overall the quality of this train-wreck of a show calls to my mind a line that the late, great Time Magazine drama critic William A. Henry III used in his review of “Starlight Express” twenty years ago: “artistically headed towards the freight yards of fiasco.” (Fabrizio O. Almeida)
At La Costa Theatre, 3931 N. Elston, (866)468-3401. This production is now closed.