Critic's Notebook: Close to the 'Edges'

?The Atlanta Lyric Theatre is taking a chance on a modern production at its newly renovated Lyric Studio. The show is called Edges, and it is a song cycle rather than a traditional musical. So, if you tend to cringe uncomfortably when characters randomly burst into song in the middle of a conversation, this may be more up your alley. On the other hand, if you’re craving The Pirates of Penzance, this probably isn’t the show for you.
??Edges was written by Benji Pasek and Justin Paul, who have also penned the Broadway musical A Christmas Story, the off-Broadway production Dogfight, and material for NBC’s television musical series, “Smash.” Edges was written while the two men were 19-year-old students at the University of Michigan. They found themselves unsatisfied with the roles they were being offered as actors, so they decided to write their own musical, and Edges was born. A similar sense of frustration by two actors resulted in James Rado and Gerome Ragni creating the musical Hair, so there’s a history of aggravation leading to innovation in theater. Naturally, given the ages of the writers, the songs in Edges focus on themes of coming of age and discovering your place in the world. From the early college productions, the show has gone on to be produced more than 100 times across North America, Europe, Asia, Australia, and Africa. 
??This show is directed by Austin Tijerina, who is currently Suzi-nominated for his role as Angel in the Actor's Express production of Rent. Tijerina also co-stars with Galen Crawley, Jessica De Maria, and AJ Klopach, all of whom are part of Suzi-nominated ensembles. “This cast, in full voice, will blow you away," Tijerina says. "You definitely do not want to miss this.” The first-time director is excited to be doing double-duty with this production, and says that the Atlanta Lyric has provided him with plenty of help as he finds his way. “The Lyric Artistic Director Brandt Blocker has been an excellent mentor and person to look to for guidance as I make this leap,” he says.
?In addition to Rent, Tijerina was recently onstage in Serenbe Playhouse's productions of Oklahoma and Man of La Mancha, and Barnum at the Lyric. While he certainly enjoys those performances, he feels it is crucial for local audiences to have the option of more intimate musical experiences as well. “It is important to me that Atlanta has a place for contemporary smaller scale musicals,” he states. “The Lyric, typically known for its flashy Broadway-style productions, is taking a huge leap into a new type of theater and it is very exciting.”
?Edges. $30. 8 p.m. Fri. Sep. 25, and Sat., Sep. 26. Atlanta Lyric Theatre. 548 S. Marietta Parkway S.E. 404-377-9948. www.atlantalyrictheatre.com.

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