Signature Theatre’s third production of this season opened virtually this week on Marquee TV. “Midnight at the Never Get” was originally developed in 2015. With book, lyrics and music by Mark Sonnenblick, it was conceived by Sam Bolen, Max Friedman, and Mark Sonnenblick, and Matthew Gardiner directs.
Sometimes you see a show that is exactly what you expected. Sometimes it is a disappointment and other times you feel like you saw something really special. “Midnight at the Never Get” is one of those shows that far exceeds your expectations by miles.
To say this is about a gay couple in the 1960s would be a disservice. This is a love story — and a beautifully told one. That it is about two men is incidental because it could be about any couple in love. The backdrop of gay persecution, the beginning of the Gay Rights Movement, and the scourge of AIDS never detract from the central theme. We all hunger for true love, and when it comes, we are often consumed by it.
The two main characters, Trevor Copeland (Sam Bolen) and Arthur Brightman (Christian Douglas) met in 1965. Trevor loves to sing and Arthur plays the piano and writes music. Trevor takes music lessons and learns to sing well enough to perform with Arthur, which lands them a gig at a gritty, gay nightclub called the Never Get. When they are promoted to the Friday midnight show, they call themselves Midnight. Trevor is an open and truthful person who adores Arthur and their life together. Their story is told from his point of view through dispersed monologues, bookended by original songs ostensibly written by Arthur but really by Sonnenblick. Arthur is not as comfortable with his sexual preferences as Trevor, but much more ambitious and unwilling to fight for gay rights. There are times when we are not sure he loves Trevor as selflessly as Trevor loves him.
As in many love stories, the ending is as bittersweet as it is in life. It is impossible not to feel empathy for Trevor. Many of us have had love affairs that did not go as we wanted but often needed.
What is truly brilliant about “Midnight at the Never Get” is it tells us this story so beautifully through music. Musical Director Angie Benson allows the music to tell its tale.
Trevor is a wonderful chanteuse who relates his story to us in interesting melodies. The music is similar to 1960s popular and show music — think Jerry Herman or Bacharach and David.
The show opens with the untrained Trevor singing “The Mercy of Love”’ and then “Wallace Falls”’ which tells how Trevor came from a small town in Idaho to New York City. “The Bells Keep Ringing” is the first love song Arthur writes for Trevor. The wonderful torch song, “Too Late for Me,” is the one that propels their careers and gets them that gig at the Never Get. Yet another song boldly parodies the police persecution of gays.
Trevor’s optimism is reflected in the joyous melody “I Prefer Sunshine.” When Arthur heads to Los Angeles to further his career, Trevor sings “I Rely on You.” “When It’s Spring Again”’ reflects Trevor’s hope that their love can reignite. As an older man, Trevor (a fine performance by Bobby Smith) wonders if he could have loved less with “A Little Less Love.”
“Midnight at the Never Get” is one of those shows that far exceeds your expectations by miles.
The talented Bolen wins us over with every note. His romantic ballad, “I Cannot Change the Way I Am,” and the great torch song, “Too Late for Me,” are universal. I never once doubted he was Trevor.
Douglas’s piano playing is a perfect match to Bolen’s voice and the two have wonderful chemistry. Douglas captures the uptightness of Arthur and his ambition. He makes us wonder if Arthur truly ever loved Trevor, or did he see him as a means to an end. As Trevor is always kind and optimistic, Douglas’ Arthur can be cruel and pessimistic.
Gardiner’s direction spotlights the pair, creating a visual Valentine of their romance at the beginning. The staging of Arthur’s scene when he verbally attacks his audience at the club in front of the record company representatives gives us great insight into that character and the relationship. (Original direction was by Max Friedman.) The director is ably assisted in creating these effects with lighting design by Adam Honore and sound design by Ryan Hickey. The costuming by Frederick P. Deeben recreates that 60s style and transports us back to that time.
“Midnight at the Never Get” may be about the love we all have had, dreamed of, or lost. It may not be a statement about the persecution of gays or a plea for gay rights. But by making the show a universal love story, it makes one realize how much we are all alike — all imperfect humans trying to find love and acceptance in what often can be a harsh and cruel world. It may do more promote acceptance of the LGBTQ community but this could be a story of an interracial couple, a straight white couple, a couple of different religions, or any two people in love. In that way, it is unique.
Running Time: One hour and 33 minutes.
Advisory: This show in not recommended for very young children due to sexual content and strong language.
“Midnight at the Never Get,” presented by Signature Theatre, will be playing virtually through June 21, 2021. If you wish to purchase ticket, go to this link. For more information about “Midnight at the Never Get” and Signature Theatre go to their website.
If you would like to read Susan Brall’s interview with Christian Douglas, go to this link.