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Time Out Theater Review: "Bare"

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The teenage rock musical "Bare" returns to the off-Broadway scene after a New York premiere back in 2004. Time Out New York's David Cote filed the following review for NY1.

Teen sexuality and puritanical repression. These combustible elements have formed the basis for many a musical, from the flop "Footloose" to the Tony winner "Spring Awakening". "Bare", an earnest and searching rock musical that just opened at New World Stages, feels a lot like Spring Awakening, but it takes place today.

The young protagonists of Bare attend St. Cecilia’s, a Catholic boarding school. Despite the uniforms and occasional sermon, it’s like any other high school: lots of tweeting, party drugs, bullies, and, yes, kids fooling around.

Two have a special reason to keep it on the down-low: popular jock Jason and nerdy, gay Peter. Peter wants to be out, but Jason can’t afford to.

A subplot involves Jason’s pouty, drug-dealing sister, Nadia, who pines for Matt, who in turn has the hots for seductive, misunderstood Ivy. When Ivy falls for Jason, the daisy chain of unrequited love and shameful secrets gets really complicated. And - SPOILER ALERT here - In case you’re wondering how it ends, please note the kids are rehearsing a production of Romeo and Juliet.

"Bare", expertly staged by Stafford Arima, has lots going for it. Jason Hite and Taylor Trensch have great chemistry as the tortured jock and the quirky nerd. Newcomer Barrett Wilbert Reed has a killer pop voice as Nadia. Jon Hartmere’s book is witty and insightful, and the score is often catchy and energizing.

Unfortunately, by act two, the plot starts spinning its wheels, the angsty ballads blend into one, and worst of all, the piece just doesn’t earn its downbeat ending.

Even though "Bare" loses momentum, it’s the kind of emotionally involving, heart-on-its-sleeve musical that could attract a devoted cult following, especially if you’re young.

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