Brownbrokers’ ‘Psyche’ worthy of the gods

Friday, December 3, 2004

Set to an unlikely pairing of musical styles, Brownbrokers’ “Psyche” is an ancient love story told with a contemporary twist.

The musical is an original adaptation of Greek mythology, written by Jed Resnick ’06 (book and lyrics) and James Egelhofer ’04 (music). It’s contemporary in the music it incorporates as well as the modern sensibilities and language its characters project.

Psyche is a mortal girl adored by fleets of men as a goddess. A jealous Aphrodite is not exactly pleased by this and deploys her son, Eros, to compel Psyche to fall in love with a monster. When faced with the beautiful maiden, however, Eros falls for Psyche himself.

In the show Apollo warns Eros that all mortal-god romances end in misery. Will this one suffer the same fate?

“Psyche” acknowledges that it is a formulaic romantic comedy, and therefore allows itself to be playful and fresh. It also has a pleasantly surprising amount of character development. Psyche is a progressive youth trapped by her beauty; she is complex because she wants men to engage her in conversation instead of ogle her.

Resnick’s lyrics are cute and funny, but it is his script that has substance. If all the musical numbers were removed, the spoken scenes remaining would still form a compelling play.

Egelhofer’s compositions combine two genres of music that would not normally appear together on stage. At first “Psyche” appears to be a rock musical in the mold of “Rent,” “Aida” or “Jesus Christ Superstar,” but when the gods break out into song, Baroque harpsichord trills accompany them. The effectiveness of this contrast is debatable and at times jarring, but the musical representation of the differences between humans and gods ultimately strengthens the show.

Director Briel Steinberg ’06 has to juggle a often crowded and chaotic stage, but succeeds. Most of the show’s cast contributes strong vocals, particularly the two leads. Leighton Bryan ’08 is adorable as Psyche and is a consistent and talented singer. David Greis ’07 as Eros can also hold his own as an actor and singer.

But the show-stealing performance belongs – no surprise – to Debbie Friedman ’05, who plays Aphrodite. Friedman has never failed to be amazing in a show, and her diva-Cruella DeVille-seductress version of the goddess of love is no exception.

Ross Cowan ’07 shows off perfect comedic timing in this production, after demonstrating in “The Laramie Project” earlier this semester that he can handle drama, too.

The best scene in the entire show is easily when Psyche and Eros are alone together for the first time. The interaction the two soon-to-be lovers have with each other outshines any flashy chorus number Resnick and Egelhofer can dish out. And the song in this scene will stun the audience with its beauty, just as Psyche does Greece.