Make Me a Song at Mosaic Theatre: Cartoony Songs Seemingly Never End

At about 90 minutes, Mosaic Theatre's production of William Finn's Make Me a Song feels like a lifetime. From the musical's opener of the same name to the closing, "Heart and Music," the numbers are at times so cartoony and overacted that it's hard to pay attention to the quality of writing that has defined award-winning playwright Finn's career. When Joey Zangardi quivers his lip, it inspires more of a gag reflex than sympathy for his character. As the play goes on, Zangardi becomes more tolerable in the group number "You're Even Better Than You Think You Are," but it's hard to tell if his delivery has improved, if Finn's script becomes stronger, or if he is just bolstered by the rest of the cast. Actress Patti Gardner shines as a school teacher in "Only One," delivering the right mix of aloofness, eccentricity, and academic zeal that you'd hope for in a quirky educator. Actor Stephen G. Anthony is also an obvious highlight, from his recurring musical gag "Republicans" to his heartfelt "When the Earth Stopped Turning." Anthony transitions nicely from dry and understated — think unflappable college professor — to emotive, subtle, and sympathetic. Yet when Anthony's not the focus, it seems the music stops. Or rather keeps going and going and going.

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Erica K. Landau