‘Kansas City Choir Boy’ Shares the (Courtney) Love (4 Stars)

‘Kansas City Choir Boy’ – Music and Lyrics by Todd Almond; Directed by Kevin Newbury; Choreography by Sam Pinkleton; Musical Direction by David Bloom; Starring Courtney Love and Todd Almond. Presented at Oberon, 2 Arrow St., Cambridge through October 10.

‘Kansas City Choir Boy’ – billed as a “theatricalized concept album” – appears to be just that, complete with a chorus of a half dozen singer/dancers and some classical musicians to accompany its leads, Todd Almond and rock star Courtney Love, through the evening. And although there is a hazy narrative that runs through the 55 minute piece, it is largely a sung-through musical without a real book. But if you drop the expectations that this is a fully formed theatrical piece and just enjoy the music, dance, (and even the imaginative lighting design), it’s got some pretty good elements, including the opportunity to see Courtney Love up close.

As the show opens, the titular but unnamed character (Almond) is composing music on his laptop. When he stops to take a break and clicks on the TV, the local news station is running a story with the headline, “Local Girl Found Dead”, accompanied by a photo of Love’s character, Athena. But when they refer to her as a “girl” instead of a woman, it leaves us wondering what time frame the piece is set in, because although Love looks pretty damn good for a  50-plus self-described “rock chick”, she’s clearly no “girl”. So when the next scene switches to what is apparently the early stage courtship for the couple, it’s a little confusing. Is it now twenty years later? A year?

Following the news story, we see (in flashback) the composer and Athena go through their entire relationship at warp speed – from early dating to marriage to breakup to her leaving for the big city and his post-breakup partying period to her demise  – all told in song. There are some gems among the tunes, beginning with the beautiful “All I Ever Wanted”, a song that sounds like it was written by Almond with Love in mind. Accompanied by piano and cello, she sings the title line of the song in staccato in her inimitably raspy voice, “And-all-I-ev-er-wan-ted-is-to-see-a movie with you,” and it’s classic punky Courtney Love.

The other songs are performed in a variety of styles, from techno-pop and neo-classical to Almond’s multiple acoustic guitar and vocal compositions. “Fireworks” describes the breaking down of the post-marital relationship and again caters to Love’s gritty style, and the haunting closing number stuck with me long after the show ended. Essentially it’s just the repetition of the line, “I did something I can’t explain; I told someone that you were mine again,” by Almond and the six women of the chorus. But it’s both surreal and relatable, as anyone who’s ever fibbed about a relationship or breakup can attest.

The chorus, sexily clad in nightclub attire, does double duty as dancers, and the choreographed numbers they perform with both Love and Almond are simple but well-executed in the tight quarters of the Oberon space. Another highlight of the show is the lighting, where 10×30 foot computer-programmed LED panels run against the back of the stage and overhead and alternately serve as nightclub lights, starlight, or a host of other effects. The show debuted last January at The Prototype: Opera/Theater/Now festival in New York (and received mostly positive reviews) and heads to LA following the 10 day run at Oberon.

This show is probably a must for Courtney Love fans (you’ll never get this close again), and pretty interesting for music fans in general, but if you’re looking for a true theatrical experience, this may not be your cup of tea. For more info, go to: