A tuneful tale, ‘Midnight’ is an oasis

Sam Bolen, as Trevor Copeland, is a dapper baritone who still believes in love. Photo by Jeremy Daniel.

Sam Bolen, as Trevor Copeland, is a dapper baritone who still believes in love. Photo by Jeremy Daniel.

 

BY SCOTT STIFFLER | When the simple act of being yourself makes the whole world a dangerous place — or, at the very least, a deeply unwelcoming one — you take your happiness, your success, and your shot at true love wherever you can find it.

For Idaho escapee and self-professed “skinny queer” Trevor Copeland, that all-purpose safe space is a Greenwich Village bottle club: The Never Get. Just beyond its front room, where gay men sip drinks and enjoy a certain amount of protection courtesy of the mobbed-up management, there’s a dingy little performance space presided over by Sister Etcetera — an enterprising crossdresser who took a chance by booking endearingly self-effacing singer Trevor and his composer/pianist/romantic partner Arthur Brightman; at midnight; on a Tuesday; in the dead of winter.

Soon thereafter, the duo are playing to packed houses — with Trevor’s lilting baritone delivering alternately campy and cutting interpretations of Arthur’s boy-meets-boy love songs, and without the risk mitigator of feminine pronouns. Which makes Trevor and Arthur considerably ahead of the curve. Too bad they’re also a little behind the times.

Cleverly, stealthily calculated to wring every last drop of emotional resonance from the implications of its title, “Midnight at The Never Get” puts poor Trevor and Arthur’s creative burst in the years leading up to the Stonewall Rebellion of June, 1969 — after which the burgeoning LGBT rights movement renders their material positively tame by comparison. Almost overnight, songs like “The Bells Keep Ringing” and “I Prefer Sunshine” position our lads as two Jerry Hermans in an increasingly Stephen Sondheim world (Arthur, clinging to his American Songbook sensibilities, can’t fathom the appeal of the Beatles, let alone the notion of marching in the streets).

Told in the form of flashback anecdotes and taking place in some sort of cabaret-room-cum-hereafter-waystation, Trevor recreates the old act while waiting for recently deceased (and long-estranged) Arthur to join him. The witty, dishy tone he brings to their hardscrabble origin story takes a dark turn, when Arthur heads straight (so to speak) to the West Coast — where mainstream success, minus that flamboyant cabaret crooner he once wrote love songs to, is his reward. 

Packed with a satisfying mix of torch songs and zippy little numbers, the music and lyrics of Mark Sonnenblick, who plays the show’s onstage pianist, are as easy to consume in one bite as they are to chew on for a while (you’ll find yourself preferring the latter). But it’s Sonnenblick’s book, along with co-creator Sam Bolen’s unsinkable Trevor, that allows “Never Get” not just to fly, but to soar.

Directed by Max Friedman. At the New York Musical Festival: Thurs., July 28 at 9pm; Sun., July 31 at 7pm; Mon., Aug. 1 at 8pm. At 42West at the OUT NYC Hotel (514 W. 42nd St., btw. 10th & 11th Aves.). For tickets ($27.50), call 212-352-3101 or visit nymf.org/midnight ($2 service fee for online purchase). Also visit nevergetmusical.com.

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