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Love, Doubt, and Other Drugs In BARE: A Pop Musical

Review by Morganna Migrim

Imagine that you’re alone in your first year of college; you’re young and confused. If you’re straight, imagine that you aren’t, and you are struggling with coming out – that you detest the idea of it. It feels like a personal offense that it’s even necessary to have to explain to your family why you haven’t been on a date with the opposite gender since the 8th grade winter formal. You’re afraid that a friend won’t want to hang out with you because they’ll think that you’re hitting on them. You’re even questioning if your friends are genuine, because they’ve always wanted a “gay best friend,” anyways. Imagine hearing someone you once trusted call you disgusting. And these are the things that you have to think about every day.

Now, imagine that version of you saw BARE: A Pop Musical and you connected so deeply with the characters that you had it memorized within a week. You pirated multiple versions of video and audio and bookmarked all the YouTube videos within a month. You gazed longingly at show dates for productions across the country. Your friends can’t escape you or its grasp, and hell, they don’t want to either once they experienced that first intense, arguably terrifying opening scene…

Everyone has struggles when they’re young, and BARE covers them all. From dealing with being slut-shamed to hating yourself over poor body image, BARE is there to tell you that you’re not alone. From wanting to come out to the world to praying to God that you aren’t gay, BARE has got your back. Teen angst has never dominated one show so much as it does in this musical and those of us that relate couldn’t be more grateful to have a local production.

BARE is currently running at the Bartell Theatre, and is directed by Steve Noll, with musical direction by Meghan Rose and choreography by Lyn Pilch. The production closes this weekend, but there is still time and every reason in the world to grab your tissues, your friends, and maybe a couple of glow-sticks to go and see it while you can. (Note: please don’t actually bring glow-sticks. Always be nice to actors, my friends.)

BARE opens up on a dream sequence showcasing the horrors of a gay boy in a Catholic church – his friends become angels casting him out of Heaven. Peter (Aaron Insko) is a well-liked boy who is into plays, partying with his friends, and his secret boyfriend, Jason (Kurtis Hopp). He’d like to let the whole world know about him and Jason, and pushes himself to hope for the best. Jason is the popular, flirty boy, who just wants to keep their relationship confined to a quiet little dorm room affair. As the show goes on, we also meet Nadia (Katie Cass), a bitter, sarcastic teen rebel who struggles with her weight, and Ivy (Sami Sobaski), the class harlot, who moves with ten times more confidence than she actually has.

When Jason is cast as Romeo, Peter is glad to have a chance to spend more time with him… But when Ivy is cast as Juliet – naturally, Nadia’s coveted role – and develops a crush on her leading man, things start to go to hell. Throw Matt (Dan Pietrangelo) into the mix, nursing an obsession for Ivy and bursting with the weaponized knowledge of the true nature behind Peter and Jason’s friendship, and you’ve got a rollercoaster of hormones, emotional tension, and illicit drug-usage.

Among the shining performances of BARE, stands Hopp; Jason’s sheer terror when he is faced with Ivy’s affections or with the judgment of the priest (well-played by Dave Durbin) was particularly impressive. Insko was outstanding in the song “See Me” where Peter tries his damnedest to come out to his mother (the talented Jessica Jane Witham); the two of them create an exemplary version of one of the most well-loved scenes. Plus, the raw talent showcased by both Cass in “Plain Jane Fatass” and Sobaski in “All Grown Up” are feats not to be joked about.

Notably, the ensemble and secondary characters tend to steal the show at times. Luca (Annemae Collins), Zack (Patrick Chounet), and Kyra (Alyson Barrett) are just three of the outstanding characters that take up the secondary roles. All of the actors brought a unique personality to their characters, some traditional, some straying from typical portrayals. Especially of note was Collins’ performance as Luca – a character usually portrayed by a man. Collins didn’t back down from the memorable sass associated with the drug dealer and showed no fear of straight-up rapping to the audience. The ensemble was also showcased by the decision to move around the vocal solos in “Wedding Bells,” taking some lines from Sister Chantelle (Janine Gardner) and spreading the joy to the background singers. In an unusual but well-made choice, Sister Chantelle’s “God Don’t Make No Trash” was changed from a solo song to a bouncing, happy, uplifting ensemble number with almost everyone in the cast – easily a high point of the production.

These characters’ stories illustrate the two contrasting perspectives of the church. Jason turns to the priest, who shoots him down without mercy, aided by the dramatic light design of Phil Koenig. Peter turns to Sister Chantelle, and finds himself walking down a crucifix shaped wedding aisle in a dream sequence wedding (set design by Erin Baal). The two different approaches are at war with each other, demonstrated through the constant conflict between the two young men. As their class struggles with their production of Romeo and Juliet, our heroes struggle with the milestones of discovering a fully-realized sexuality – but interestingly enough, the word “gay” isn’t uttered once. In hindsight, out of every aspect of this well-loved show, that distinct silence is perhaps the most striking.

Overall, BARE showcases so many different types of struggle. Whether you’re Nadia and you don’t think anyone could love you, Ivy and you know people love you for the wrong reasons, Matt and you long for someone to appreciate you, Peter and you want to let the world know how much love you have to offer, or Jason and you want more than anything just to be normal… you will find your place among the rock melodies of BARE: A Pop Musical.

Don’t miss this production in its final show times this week: Thursday – 4/2 at 7:30pm, Friday – 4/3 at 8pm, and Saturday – 4/4 at 8pm.


Ticket information: This show is appropriate for people 16 and older. | All tickets are $20 general admission. Run time: 2:20. | The Bartell Theater is located on the capitol square at 121 W. Main St. | Purchase tickets online here.

BARE Poster




















~ Morganna Grim is a currently a blogger, screenwriter, and all-purpose production set lackey in Madison. She is also an aspiring everything and trades her work for hugs and compliments.~














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