THE LONELY FEW Welcomes You In — Review
The Lonely Few, a new musical that opened last week at the Geffen Playhouse, is a heartfelt new work that tells the story of Lila (Lauren Patten), a young grocery store clerk living in Kentucky who dreams of making it as a musician and breaking out of her small-town life. The show, written by Zoe Sarnak (book) and Rachel Bonds (music, lyrics, and orchestrations), features an immersive atmosphere only heightened by tight performances from an incredibly cohesive cast.
The play begins with Lila performing at a local bar with her band, The Lonely Few. Her bandmates, Dylan (Damon Daunno), JJ (Helen J Shen), and Paul (Thomas Silcott), not only back up her music, but her personal life, too. She loves playing, and has aspirations to be able to support herself and her brother, Adam (Joshua Close), with her music. However, everything changes when Amy (Ciara Renée), a famous touring musician who's passing through town, sees Lila perform and offers The Lonely Few the opening slot on the rest of her tour.
The story that unfolds is a beautiful and complex exploration of love, identity, and the sacrifices we all make for our dreams. As Lila and Amy get to know each other, they begin to fall in love, but they also face challenges and obstacles that threaten to tear them apart.
The Lonely Few’s biggest strength lies with its cast. All six actors are quadruple threats who bring energy, skill, and heart to their characters and enable the always-serviceable and sometimes-great score to shine. Renée, especially, brings a magnetic quality to Amy, and holds the audience in the palm of her guitar-grasping hand. The actors’ adeptness at their instruments is most on display when their playing is seamlessly picked up by the band, led by Music Director Myrna Conn, which exists to both supplement the cast and also to lend backing to the few non-diegetic songs within the show.
That said, the show’s main weakness exists with its book and score. While Bonds’ book sets up a compelling story, not enough tension is built up to make the central conflict feel particularly compelling nor the resolution satisfying. The stakes simply weren’t all there. Sarnak’s score, too, provides the show with emotional color, but not enough drive. Additionally, some of the songs waver on pastiche, with the music of Jonathan Larson brought to mind: “21-30” feels eerily similar to tick, tick... BOOM!’s “30/90,” and one can’t help but be reminded of Rent’s “One Song Glory” as Lila noodles on her guitar, composing “Always Wait For You” throughout the show.
The production design is another high point of the evening. The immersive set, designed by Sybil Wickersheimer, is incredibly effective, transporting the audience to not only Paul’s bar, where The Lonely Few perform, but to dives all across the south. Nifty lighting design, by Adam Honoré, is able to delineate one bar from the next, while still grounding the action in reality.
Overall, The Lonely Few is a moving production that will certainly benefit from continued revisions to its book and score. It will resonate with anyone who has ever pursued their dreams or fallen in love. With its incredible cast, immersive setting, and enjoyable tunes, it's a show that music lovers will be sure to enjoy.
The Lonely Few is now in performance at the Geffen Playhouse in Los Angeles, California through April 30, 2023. For tickets and more information, visit here.