All the lonely people, living lives of quiet desperation in the Big City, and their increasingly frantic search for Mr. or Ms. Right — via personal ads in newspapers, video dating, blind dates, computer dating, etc. — is the subject of the current Hot Summer Nights at the Kennedy presentation of Personals, which resumes its two-week run on Aug. 13-17 in the Sara Lynn and K.D. Kennedy, Jr. Theater in the Progress Energy Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Raleigh, NC. This PG-13 rated 1985 Off-Broadway musical revue is an entertaining, but definitely lightweight, series of short comic sketches and snappy but forgettable lyrics penned by David Crane, Seth Friedman, and Marta Kauffman — the creators of the popular NBC television series “Friends” — and pumped up with music by composers William Dreskin, Joel Phillip Friedman, Seth Friedman, Alan Menken, Stephen Schwartz, and Michael Skloff.
Directed and choreographed with great gusto by Tito Hernandez, with dynamic musical direction by Nancy Whelan, this spunky show stars Jason Sharp as Man 1, Noah Putterman as Man 2, Michael Jones as Man 3, Katie Lynch as Woman 1, Yolanda Rabun as Woman 2, and Heather Patterson King as Woman 3. The HSN onstage band — Whelan (keyboard 1), Cathy Hamner (keyboard 2), Larry Suvak (flute, clarinet, and saxophone), Drew Lile (guitar/banjo), and Leslie Webster (percussion) — also put pizzazz into the proceedings with their high-octane instrumentals.
The six Hot Summer Nights cast members each inject sparks into their multiple roles, but some stars shine brighter than others. Noah Putterman makes an impressive HSN debut with his Woody Allen-like antics in the recurring role of a tall, thin computer nerd, looking for his own personal Mrs. or Ms. Robinson for a memorable “first time” and trying to learn the smoothest moies in the metropolitan dating game from a cheesy CD-ROM. Michael Jones is amusing as a bored husband who plays a mean practical joke on a gullible transvestite dwarf, with a penchant for dolling up like Carmen Miranda, and ends up with an exciting threesome with the dwarf and his equally bored wife.
Yolanda Rabun adds a crisp characterization as a recent divorcee still reeling from a devastating breakup, Heather Patterson King is hilarious in her foul-mouthed video-dating segments and makes a compelling case for looking past age and weight to glimpse the sweetheart of a woman in the frumpy frame, and Jason Sharp and Katie Lynch as the gun-shy boy and girl next-door provide some comic relief in less high-profile roles.
With HSN director and choreographer Tito Hernandez and musical director Nancy Whelan setting a brisk pace, Personals gives single and divorced urbanites — and a few restless married folks — some enjoyable moments in the spotlight in a robust Hot Summer Nights production that also benefits from the creative contributions of technical director and lighting designer Curtis Lee Jones, costume designer Karen Williams, properties master Dan Martell, and sound designer Brian L. Hunt. Indeed, last Thursday night’s audience rewarded the efforts of the Personals cast and crew with a standing ovation.
Hot Summer Nights at the Kennedy presents Personals Wednesday-Saturday, August 13-16, at 8 p.m. and Sunday, August 17, at 3 p.m. in the Sara Lynn and K.D. Kennedy, Jr. Theater in the Progress Energy Center for the Performing Arts, 2 E. South St., Raleigh, North Carolina 27601. $27.50, except $20 for Sunday matinees. Progress Energy Center Box Office: 919/831-6060 (information only) or through the presenter's website. Group Rates: 919/828-3726. Note: There will be free complimentary beverages and desserts at all intermissions. Hot Summer Nights at the Kennedy: http://www.hotsummernightsatthekennedy.org. Internet Off-Broadway Database: http://www.lortel.org/LLA_archive/index.cfmsearch_by=show&id=2077.