OGDEN — Weber State Theatre’s AAT (Associated Artists of the Theatre) presents the regional premier of In Pieces: A New Musical with music and lyrics written by pop songwriter Joey Contreras. Contreras has created a heartfelt show of music set into a theatrical setting that follows specific romantic moments throughout the lives of eight people living in New York City. Directed and choreographed by Cassidy Wixon, the cast of eleven talented students present a powerful and worthy production to showcase this new musical.
In Pieces: A New Musical features twenty-two musical numbers written by Contreras that together create a storyline told only through music and song with no speaking interlude parts. Contreras is a musical theatre and pop songwriter who is internationally acclaimed for his works. Broadway Records released the popular In Pieces: A New Musical (Highlights) album in April of 2021. Contreras said of the release, “Many of the songs in IN PIECES have been previously recorded and released, but as this show has grown and developed over the years, I wanted the chance to record and share the additional newer music on this highlights album.”
Presented in the smaller Eccles Theatre at the Val A Browning Center, In Pieces creates a feeling of intimacy and community. Scenic Designer Porter Lance created a simple set that is quite effective as it helps move the production along from one number to the next without disruption of set changes. I especially liked the simple set up of the subway chairs in the number, “Another New York Love Story.” The swaying and sudden stopping actions of everyone in their chairs really conveyed a sense of being on a subway at two in the morning.
Due to the simple set, lighting (designed by Marley Keith) and sound (designed by Grace Heinz) greatly help to set the scene and mood in each song. The effects of the red and blue lighting in, “Get up and Go,” created visual emotions of struggle in the scene. Brayden Seaman and Wixon designed simple props like colorful lighted phones in, “My Simple Request,” which were striking and adequate for a powerful visual effect.
The story line of Sam and Hunter played by Allie White and Taylor Garlick portrays common struggles in a long term relationship. With songs, “You Never Know,” and, “I Could Fall,” White and Garlick playfully act while singing about awkward and exhilarating moments in life. White is a great singer who carries the show through and is exceptional in her singing of, “Waiting for More.”
Dixon Trumbo plays Grey, a drug addict who struggles finding himself and breaking free from the fix. Although he is not the strongest of singers, Trumbo creates a believable character whom you can root for in his conflicts and challenges. Granted, there are some themes to the show that are set for a more mature audience, such as illegal drug use, insinuated sex, and alcohol drinking. However, I feel like the show is relatable to the modern day challenges and situations we all face
George Michael Edwards III plays Charlie, a young man who falls for Grey in songs, “Me and Mr. Popularity,” and, “Ohio.” These songs are charming and portray the joy of a crush and a new love. With lines like, “And my heart just repeats a simple habit, whenever I find somebody from O-O-O-Ohio,” anyone who loves someone from Ohio will quickly love this song too.
Another favorite for the night was Madison Rigby playing Jael, a woman with insecurities and social anxieties who struggles to even communicate through Facebook and on an everyday subway ride. Rigby’s solos in, “My Simple Request,” and, “Another New York Love Story,” were breathtaking with her clear technique, facial expressions, and acting.
Grace Zito plays the part of River. Unfortunately, the music was too loud to hear some of her lines in, “Young Kind of Love,” but her rendition of, “With Him,” was soulful and touching.
The song, “Singin’ the Same Line,” sung by Marie Howell as Alex heartbreakingly relates the feelings of loving someone, whether a family member or a friend, who is going through an addiction. “What do you do when your fix ain’t fixed?; and baby he’s broken but your arms are still open.” Howell’s touching performance is moving and thought-provoking.
Spencer Sanders plays Austyn, a young man who is too afraid to say his true feelings in, “Unsaid.” Sander’s facial expressions and heartfelt lyrics show Sander’s deep connection to the songs he sings. Sanders wraps the theme of the show up in the song, “In Pieces,” stating, “That even though this won’t last forever and our lives are only passing through could I be more than another person off your list to do? Or can we only love, only love in pieces?”
The full company songs such as, “Fork in the Road,” and, “You Never Know,” were engaging and full of complex choreography and dances that everyone performed well at. Wixon is an effective choreographer and has shown talent in choreographing dances for a group.
The show moves along fairly quickly and was only eighty minutes in length, leaving me confused as to the continuation of the story line at times. With such a small cast, I was left wondering if the characters all knew each other in New York. Were they in character at the intervention for Grey or were they representing other people? Is Jael’s Facebook love interest Hunter or was Garlick portraying another person?
Overall, I really enjoyed the songs and the performance and will be downloading many of the songs to my own playlist. Music Director Kenneth Plain and Assistant Music Director Eliza Haynie should be commended on their fabulous work.
This production of In Pieces: A New Musical is exceptionally done. With the mature content and themes of this show, I would highly recommend it to audiences about high school aged and above. The music is catchy and moving, the cast is talented, and it is only around for a few more days. “Even though this won’t last forever and our lives are only passing through, [let this] be more than another [thing] off your list to do.”