If you ask any trained musician about the rests written on their score, they’ll tell you that the moments of silence are equality important to the notes meant to be heard.
This production What Gives? doesn’t feature any live musicians at all (the actors sing along with a quiet, prerecorded accompaniment) and while the basic foundations for an ok show are present, the cast’s performances – or more accurately, the lack there of during the quiet, and off-focus moments really drag the show down. Kind of like a musician who forgot to “play” their rests.
Staged in a loft in 1930’s Manhattan, the four-person cast dances and sings their way a series of jovial numbers. Though, most of the lyrics feel a little hollow, which is ironic given the male leads’ primary plot device being their inability to write a musical. This is a let down, because, for the most part, the cast can sing quite well.
Save for Venice Drake’s (played by Jasmine Zyp) quieter lines and a few higher notes, every lyric was belted out with power, enthusiasm, and musicality by everyone on stage. That same energy was carried over to lines of dialogue as well; from the first line to the last, when an actor was speaking, they did so in a natural way.
Too often, dead silence uncomfortably enveloped the stage
The problem with What Gives? is that too frequently, when the actors weren’t singing, delivering a line, or performing another action that you’d find explicitly mentioned in a script, it’s as if they were waiting for their next moment.
When you’re on the stage and the lights are on you, that is your moment. If you finished a boxstep with a stomp and have 16 beats before your next step, those are 16 beats that should be filled with your between-the-lines performance.
Dead silence uncomfortably enveloped the stage as a too-long costume change crawled by, dance breaks were filled with tidy dance moves but near-emotionless faces, and split dialogue scenes were mostly devoid of ad-libbing and off focus movement.
When I break it down, I feel like I only saw half of a show. That half of a musical was pretty good, but even mediocre productions can be made great if performers have their lines memorized, and they know what to put between them. What Gives? Only has the first half of that equation, and a broken equation is not worth the time of your average, paying audience member.