My Kid companion Giulio as poster child
I was not wild about seeing The Kid, the comedic musical based on the book by sex columnist Dan Savage about his and his partner Terry Miller's adoption of a son (all three pictured). It just sounded like it might be one of those feel-good, not-good gay plays that nobody is willing to dislike. Also, while I usually agree with Savage, his ubiquitous presence as a pundit has made me wish we could have some other voices in our community, so I wondered if watching an entire cast give his ego a Broadway blowjob might be annoying. (It's sometimes fun watching other people get blowjobs, but something you just, you know, wish it were you.)
Plus he h-a-t-e-d Boy Culture in such an unfair way (all but calling it homophobic with an AFA comparison) that it really kinda stuck in my craw. And I never entirely got over his racially-tinged Prop 8 reaction. All of this just by way of full disclosure of my expectations!
Make room for daddies
But you might wish you'd adopted after seeing The Kid (hurry up, y'all, it closes May 29th!), not because it's a fluffy, rah-rah take on parenthood but because it's painfully honest and self-deprecating—in the same way that Dan (Christopher Sieber, in an effortlessly charming, vocally winning performance) and Terry (a likable Lucas Steel) have an awkwardly no-B.S. meeting with an adoption worker that actually endears them to her in the musical, the musical's honesty and well-placed irreverence makes becoming a parent seem like a responsibility for us all. The show would appeal to anyone not beside themselves with homophobia, but I would say its unique tone is perfectly gay—after all, we like to pet the elephant in the room.
The kid's ready—are they?
In a nutshell, the couple wants to adopt after barely two years together, and in spite of Savage's risqué day job. Being good liberals, they opt for open adoption, which they "believe in," meaning the birth mother must choose them from a letter they write, and will remain a part of the child's life. The musical follows their pursuit of parenthood, and the emotional roller coaster it provides for Dan, who's less gung-ho at first than Terry, and we all know the happy ending since their real-life song D.J. is now 12 years old and attended opening night with his daddies.
Wartella and Frumess make this baby bounce
But don't worry—knowing the outcome does not blunt the positive impact of the musical, which has the wittiest book (Michael Zam) and lyrics (Jack Lechner) and some of the most melodic music (Andy Monroe) of any I've heard in ages, including (especially) much bigger productions. In particular, songs like the Top 40-ready "Behind the Wheel" (sung by Michael Wartella as Bacchus, the baby's wayward natural father), emotionally gutting "Spare Changin'" (sung by the spectacularly understated Jeannine Frumess as Melissa, the baby's birth mother) and heartwarming "I Knew" (sung by Jill Eikenberry as Dan's warmly buttinksy mother) sound like they could be standards. "Gore Vidal" is inventive, "They Hate Us" and "If You Give Us Your Baby" are laugh-out-loud funny and a song like "Beautiful" ("he's fuckin' beautiful!") summarizes the show's investment in not mincing words.
Derek McLane's set, whose confines prove to be quite elastic
The show is gifted with an offbeat cast of terrific singers who play a variety of supporting characters, from people writing in to "Savage Love" for advice (cleverly staged using projections) to fellow parent wannabes to the denizens of a leather bar (special shout-out to Justin Patterson for his remarkable assless chaps). I would single out Susan Blackwell as the aforementioned adoption agent, but all of the others (Kevin Anthony, Zachary Berger, Jane Brockman, Ann Harada, Tyler Maynard and Brooke Sunny Moriber) contribute materially to the liveliness and exceptional heart of this piece.
And how brave that The Kid dares to make the audience wish Melissa could have managed to keep her kid, even as it inspires us to be happy for DJ's deserving dads.
The show's first act feels long (but isn't) and a song about fetal alcohol syndrome borders on offensively dismissive of the condition, but all minor flaws are forgiven as the story zips along in the second act toward a highly satisfying pay-off. Director Scott Elliott was a super choice to midwife this baby—which has 10 fingers and 10 toes, and will have you snapping and tapping them one moment, and veering from laughter to tears the next.