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Tomorrow Morning

Theatre Review by Matthew Murray

Matthew Hydzik, Autumn Hurlbert, D.B. Bonds, and Mary Mossberg.
Photo by Carol Rosegg.

Old-fashioned romances can be corny and creaky, no doubt. And small-scale, old-fashioned romantic musicals have an even tougher road: Don't our deepest feelings need to plumb depths and scale heights beyond the reach of tiny theaters housing tiny orchestras playing tiny songs? Certainly this is a hurdle faced by Laurence Mark Wythe's new musical at the York Theatre Company, Tomorrow Morning, a four-actor charmfest about the essential complexities of contemporary American relationships. It doesn't say anything new, and it doesn't say much in ways you've never heard before. But it also doesn't absorb cynicism or complaints. It's a show so gentle, so nice, and so enveloping in its love of love that it becomes the one thing that should be impossible: irresistible.

It arrives at that level as deliberately as any 80-minute show can, with the usual requirements of musicals consuming a good chunk of the early time. We must spend a fair number of scenes meeting the two Los Angeles couples we'll be following: John and Kat (Matthew Hydzik and Autumn Hurlbert), in their 20s, and Jack and Catherine (D.B. Bonds and Mary Mossberg), about 10 years older. It's evening, and both are anxiously awaiting the next day, when the younger duo is to be married and the older two will finalize their divorce, and their voices swell as their heads swirl with excitement and nervousness about the new lives that will begin in 12 hours.

John is awaiting news about a screenplay deal he's trying to strike with a major studio, while Kat ties up loose ends at her plush new job at a top book publisher; he's worried about money, she's worried about having enough time, and having put on too many pounds in the hectic run-up to the nuptials. She's got a call in to her doctor, but hasn't heard back yet. Jack got kicked out after a fling with a much-younger coworker, which he conducted because Catherine's endless work weeks as senior editor at Taschen left him feeling abandoned. If Catherine has anything to say about it, he'll stay permanently out of the lives of her and their nine-year-old son, Adam—she's even plotting a move to New York to get away, and to rise still further in her career. But the remorseful Jack is resigned to do whatever necessary to keep them in L.A. where they belong—with him.

Everything that follows derives from these basic precepts, with the usual upheavals along the way. Among them: a titanic revelation threatens John and Kat's partnership at zero hour, and as they explore their feelings Jack and Catherine discover that maybe their initial break-up decision was ill-considered. So, yes, standard stuff. But White's light, velvety touch keeps you solidly engaged, even if predicting plot twists scenes ahead of time is hardly difficult. There's no blistering acrimony here: Each character behaves as he or she does for reasons of absolute affection, and wrinkles arise when they forget this, which limits the story and score to the realm of honesty.

If the songs are all in the easy-listening pop milieu (with orchestrations to match, by Wythe, Matt Brind, and Brett Rowe), and if they're more than a little reminiscent of many fly-by-night NYMF tunes you may hear in the late summer and early fall, they're all pleasant. (Musical director John Bell heads the four-piece band.) Most are lovely, laid-back, and evanescent tributes to the comfortably turbulent life: the expectant opener, "Everything Changes"; "What It Takes," about John and Kat's conviction that they're building a solid foundation; "The Secret Tango," looking at what's okay to hide and what isn't; and "Inventory," as everyone examines their disintegrating worlds. The closest to a misfire is "The Game Show," a confusing, metaphorical quasi-dream sequence in which all four discover there's no easy way to "win" the skirmishes they've started.

Four songs, however, soar well beyond the rest: "Every Day," a beautiful ballad John sings as he begins to understand how much he truly loves Kat; "Look What We Made," for John and Jack, separate but together, considering the different but vital roles children play in their lives; "Self-Portrait," in which Catherine surveys her roller-coaster life to discover what—and who—she really wants; and the finale, "All About Today," when the two couples' dreams and fears, which are treated separately throughout, finally collide as the sun rises. It's in these moments that Tomorrow Morning stakes its strongest claims to being special, and that Wythe's unique songwriting voice is most clearly heard.

Tom Mullen has provided smooth, unerring direction with a pace that never flags; and Lorin Latarro's infrequent, but humorously improvisatory, choreography captures just the right mood. Dan P. Conley's set is a cozy mod living area, which Kirk Bookman lights with cheery candy colors. The performers all emanate strong best-buddy vibes that draw you close right away and don't let you go. Hurlbert and Mossberg have knock-out voices (which their low-key songs only intermittently let them display), and their respective exuberance and world-weariness establish an attractive contrast for two women facing different, but equally perplexing, crossroads. Hydzik is endearing as a young man who slowly learns what growing up and growing responsible really mean; and while Bonds potently explores Jack's inner turmoil, he's the most challenging to penetrate because Bonds's soft singing voice is so often drowned out by either the band or his cast mates.

But once you do get to know Jack and the others, Wythe ensures that you can't stop liking them. Their problems are so universal, yet also so specific, that they could just as easily be your friends, your kids, or even you. You root for them, and you want them to all get what they want and what they need, because don't we all want the people we love most to find lasting love themselves? No, such concepts are not revelatory: These stories have been told a million times already, and will undoubtedly be told a million more. But when they're told as simply and as well as they are in Tomorrow Morning, even the most familiar tale can be fresh and fun all over again.

Tomorrow Morning
Through April 23
York Theatre Company at The Theatre at Saint Peter's—Citigroup Center, 619 Lexington Avenue at 54th Street
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