First, a disclaimer: I heard the score to this Dennis DeYoung show on Memorial Day, 1994, visiting the composer’s home, and was immensely moved by it. This was long before the Disney animated musical version, and at that time the working title of this version was “Q-Modo.” The best ballads were already there, and the melodic hooks were far superior, I felt, to the Styx hit parade so associated with its composer. Watching the score come to life at Bailiwick’s Monday night opening, not one note had changed in fourteen years, though what was the torso of a work has been filled out with more, well, ballads, when frankly what was needed was a variety of musical styles and colors reflecting the contrast of actual characterizations. To be sure, there are moments of great beauty here, a feast of melody in a form that thrives on tunes but which sorely lacks them these days. But the words sung and spoken by and large sound as though they are coming from the same place rather than emanating from the diverse characters in Victor Hugo’s novel. Likewise, the harmonizations, orchestrations, modulations and the like have the transparent sound and feel of 1970s pop. These are small problems, however, that are easily corrected given that the skeleton of this work has so much, so right. But unless you’re Cole Porter, musical theater is not a solo art form, and even he had book writers. Kudos—or should I say Q-dos—to director David Zak and his strong cast which deliver the goods on what is important here, namely, the score. But Zak has also offered clever, economical staging solutions to unique problems inherent in the show, including how to make a human gargoyle (George Andrew Wolff) credibly soar in song. (Dennis Polkow)
At the Bailiwick Arts Center, 1229 W. Belmont, (773)883-1090. This production is now closed.