Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Chicago

Tomorrow Morning
Kokandy Productions
Review by John Olson | Season Schedule

Also see John's review of Between Riverside and Crazy


Tina Naponelli, Carl Herzog, Teressa LaGamba and
Neil Stratman

Photo by Michael Brosilow
Some 20 miles to the north of Theatre Wit on Belmont Avenue, the Stephen Sondheim-George Furth musical Company—an examination of the institution of marriage—is playing at Writers Theatre. That landmark musical ponders the question of why one would get married rather than remain single and it does so through vignettes of five different married (or about to be married) couples and one single man. The British musical Tomorrow Morning, which had its U.S. premiere in Chicago in 2008 and was well received in a 2011 New York staging, seems to aspire to similarly make a categorical statement about marriage, though a different one. Laurence Mark Wythe, who wrote book, music and lyrics, shows all the hope and promise at a marriage's outset—and the pain and disappointment when one fails. He does so by alternating between the eve and morning of the wedding of John and Kat, a twenty-something couple, and the eve and morning of the divorce of thirty-something married couple Jack and Catherine some ten years later.

If Wythe meant to make a broad insightful statement about marriage—or about our expectations of the institution—I couldn't find enough insight to say he succeeds in that goal. Nor does he say enough about these specific couples to make them interesting as "scenes from a marriage," to borrow the title of that Bergman film. The young couple have a lot going on the night before the wedding—he's a screenwriter waiting to hear if a studio is buying his script and she's concerned she might be pregnant. The main thing about them is that their relationship seems mostly motivated by sex (their unsuccessful attempts to spend the eve apart result in a phone sex episode depicted in the amusing song "Pool Boy"). And all we learn about the reasons behind the older couple's breakup is that Jack cheated on Catherine. They do love their nine-year-old son, but that's hardly a defining trait.

Wythe ends up with a musical that is neither as universal as Company nor as specific as Jason Robert Brown's The Last Five Years. There are some entertaining moments for the younger couple—played by the attractive Tina Naponelli and Neil Stratman, who work hard to give Kat and John some specific rough edges in their self-centeredness, but with a fair amount of mundane dialogue, they frequently don't have much to work with. As for the older couple, Carl Herzog has a believable and touching melancholy. His character did not initiate the divorce and doesn't want it. Teressa LaGamba's Catherine, though, is angry and mostly shrill. There's not much in their story to hold attention until a crisis concerning their young son occurs late in the 90-minute intermissionless show.

The cast are all solid singers, though. LaGamba particularly is a powerhouse, but I found Naponelli struggling in her upper register at times. They do a nice job with Wythe's score—always easy on the ears and particularly touching with "Look What We Made," a duet ballad for the men about fatherhood. They're accompanied by a single piano played by music director Kory Danielson. Director John Glover and scenic designer Ashley Ann Woods divide the alley stage into four quadrants, one each for the homes of each of the characters, keeping the two pairs separated until the end.

It's a likable enough evening and probably good date night material, but neither a grand statement on marriage nor an especially moving character study.

Tomorrow Morning will play at Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont, through August 28, 2016. For more information or tickets visit www.kokandyproductions.com or call 773-975-8150.


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