If you buy the meta-shtick of Joe Iconis’s ReWrite (he is writing a musical to deadline, and so writes about himself, and the one who got away) then you have to accept that Joe is writing music for selfish reasons: for his friends and for the warm glow of the afterparty. If you don’t buy the three one-acts structure, loosely connected by a melody and a character, then the show is an after-school special about confidence (“Nelson Rocks!”), a musical twist on Durang-style loneliness (“Miss Marzipan”), and a self-aware but fatuous look at musicals—[title of show] without the honesty (“The Process”).
ReWrite feels like a generous rough draft of a musical—the characters are unfinished clichés and the songs are cheaply supported by Iconis’s piano and various instruments from Arvi Sreenivasan. Melodies start but then trail off, unresolved, much like a certain one-verse song from the show about a monkey. As for the book, which pokes slight fun at Lin-Manuel’s In the Heights, there’s a lesson and a reminder here about glass houses and bricks. The one thing ReWrite has going for it is that it’s so mundane.
Then again, that’s what Joe is after, and that’s why one man’s problem with this play is another man’s guilty pleasure. In “The Process,” Badia Farha plays The Girl Behind the Counter as a stereotypically sassy black woman (“Where yo’ balls at?” she sings), but she also scores a valid and endearing point by helping him find his “heart balls.” Likewise, Lorinda Lisitza plays Miss Marzipan so psycho-pathetically that it’s hard to believe that her accidental kidnap victim (A. J. Shively) would fall for her, and yet when she sings about marzipan, or he sings about eggs benedict, it seems ordinary enough. Finally, Nick Blaemire’s nerdy Nelson is stale from the moment he first enters with his Evil Dead shirt and thick glasses and inability to ask Jenny Vecharelli (Lauren Marcus) to the prom, but he perseveres through the same old same old until we like him.
Still, the end result is charmingly underwhelming. As a character in his own play, The Writer (Jason Williams) succeeds at having an emotional breakthrough. Audiences may recognize that, and may even hum along to his spry riffs, but the actual writer, Joe Iconis, is the only person likely to benefit from this extended bit of musical therapy.