By: Lauren Truong
It’s not uncommon to experience confusion about one’s identity, future, or role in life, especially as we mature. This confusion can range from class schedules, future career goals, or sexuality. Yet, this confusion often leads to the same thing: vulnerability and questioning of oneself. And while we often struggle to expose that vulnerability, Bare allows us to reveal, connect, and overcome our vulnerabilities completely.
Bare is a unique piece of contemporary musical theater due to its interesting history. With the book, lyrics, and music written by Damon Intrabartolo and Jon Hartmere, Bare began as Bare: A Pop Opera in Los Angeles in 2000 before running Off-Broadway in New York in 2004. With an increase in awareness for bullying, legalizing gay marriage, and other LGBTQ+ issues, the show was revamped in 2014 as Bare the Musical with an updated and more developed script and score. Here at TCU, the university’s very own Theatre Department performed nearly a week’s amount of shows for Bare; one of which I fortunately attended.
The show takes place in a Catholic high school where there is the classic, “popular male main character,” “the popular female main character,” “the not-so-popular main characters,” and “the extras.” With some star-crossed romantic plot, jokes, and tragedy thrown in and you could have a modernized remake Romeo and Juliet. However, Bare takes a completely different spin on the star-crossed lovers trope, beginning with having a gay relationship at the center of the story.
Peter Simonds (Jack Kapple, TCU Class ‘20) and Jason McConnel (Lance Jewett, TCU Class ‘20) have been in a secret relationship for most of their high school career and plan to finish their senior year just as they always have: together and in love. Yet, with Peter wanting to end the secret and Jason wanting to keep it, the “bare” truth of dealing with sexuality slowly unwinds itself as the show progresses. Rather than focusing on their sexuality, the show focuses on the deeper, hard-hitting issues that come with sexuality, such as harassment, discrimination, and overall homophobia. This performance exposes the complex internal and external conflicts that not only accompany, but also emphasize the struggle of questioning our sexuality and self-identifying who we are as humans.
Each actor by themselves is worth noting, but standouts include Rachel Poole (TCU ‘20) as Sister Chantelle and Brett Rawlings (TCU ’21) as Lucas Carter. The comedic timing of each is flawless, and their ability to bring dimension to their comic-relief personas is incredible. Moreover, Poole’s astonishing singing abilities shined throughout the show, making her songs some of the highlights of the performance.
Director Penny Mas has put together an amazing show with smooth scene changes, a cohesiveness that is both impressive and unmatched, and an overall emotional performance. Every detail is clearly planned, creating the stunning show they performed.
In addition, the lighting design of Edward Liu and the costume design of Murell Horton enhance the show in their own ways. The lighting, though not explicitly noticeable, played an enormous part in creating the atmosphere necessary in each scene, truly pulling on the heartstrings of the audience with isolated spotlights during emotional scenes or changing colors to set certain moods. The costumes are simple, being mostly school uniforms, but the attention to detail, such as Jason’s habit of wearing his Varsity jacket or Peter’s impeccably worn uniform slowly becoming messier as the show progresses, allows the audience to bring their attention to the personality to certain characters without even needing to listen to their dialogue.
Though Bare is no longer showing, I encourage you to go see at least one production by the TCU Theatre Department. Later this semester, the department plans to perform the classic Pericles from November 13-17th, and in the spring The Diviners (February 26 – March 3,) Black Comedy (March 21 – 23,) and 42nd Street (April 24 – 28.) As a big musical fan, I’m excited to see the complex tap numbers on stage next semester! Yet, that won’t stop me from seeing any of the other performances. Come support TCU’s Theatre Department; you’ll love it!