Powerful performances elevate ‘Analog and Vinyl’

By David Lampe-Wilson

Analog and Vinyl 1

You’ll root for Preston Sadleir as Harrison and Sarah Stiles as Rodeo Girl. Photo by Hubert Schriebl

Weston Playhouse kicks off its 78th season with the world premiere of  the musical Analog and Vinyl, a meet-cute love story with a dash of demonic doings. And while there is much to recommend it, this new musical plays less like a finished work and more like an upscale workshop.

The show’s conceit is drawn from the legend of Robert Johnson, the blues singer/guitarist who, in a Faustian pact, supposedly sold his soul to the devil. In Analog and Vinyl, Harrison, the owner of a struggling record store, is offered his heart’s desire by a character simply known as “The Stranger” for the price of his soul. Further complicating Harrison’s life is Rodeo Girl, a motor-mouthed kook who wears her heart on her sleeve, which Harrison doesn’t notice due to his preoccupation with financial woes, his concern for his aging father and his deep feelings of failure.

Jack-of-all-trades Paul Gordon wrote the book, music and lyrics for Analog and Vinyl and he must realize that there is still work to be done. Much of the music is ephemeral and suffers from anemia, lacking both a sense of depth and compelling harmonics; it could never hope to stand shoulder to shoulder with the music that’s discussed in the show.

The dialogue in the first half of this 90 minute one-act is often naïve and at times little more than an attempt to flesh out a slight evening. But the second half proves stronger. Here, there is often a passion in the writing, as when Harrison dismisses digital recordings, arguing, “Analog isn’t just about sound; it’s about individuality and patience. It’s about integrity … records are like people, one-of-a-kind, fragile, special.” Many an audiophile would hear the truth in that.


Beth Glover, left, plays an energetic Stranger. With Preston Sadleir as Harrison. Photo by Tim Fort.

Seen during its final preview performance, the cast proves to be a trio of polished, powerful performers: Preston Sadleir’s Harrison has the awkward grace of a vinyl geek combined with a talent to launch into some fine singing. He is partnered by Sarah Stiles, whose Rodeo Girl keeps the story moving with her manic discourse and soaring voice. They make a sweet couple in the opposites-attract vein, and you find yourself rooting for them.

Then there’s Beth Glover’s devil-may-care Stranger, a playful she-devil who can belt out a song and garner a laugh with the best of them, but who at times seems to be channeling Megan Mullally. Still, this trio elevates the material, employing sheer energy to fill structural holes and playing what’s there for all it’s worth.

Michael Berresse’s linear direction presents most songs facing the audience — not exploring the possibilities of the set — a cluttered shop filled with vinyl records, album covers and music memorabilia concocted by Timothy R. Mackabee, which creates an atmosphere that feels right. Gina Scherr’s lighting is spot-on and adds some visual dimension, and Gregory Gate’s costumes are colorfully appropriate, confirming that the devil does, indeed, wear Prada.

Analog and Vinyl continues through July 12 at the Weston Playhouse, 703 Main St., Weston. Performances: Tuesday through Saturday at 7:30 p.m.; matinees Wednesday and Saturday at 2 p.m., and Sunday at 3 p.m. For tickets and information, call 802-824-5288.
©The Chester Telegraph – 2014

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About the Author: After 30 years as a theater critic and arts editor for a Connecticut daily newspaper, David Lampe-Wilson transplanted to Vermont with his wife and two cats.

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  1. John Holme says:

    Heidegger, Mark Twain’s disastrous investments, the plots of Nora Ephron’s plays related to destiny and, ultimately, whether one can resist powerful temptation, perhaps not by selling one’s soul to the devil, but by making a bargain that one will come to regret in other ways. These are just some of the themes that surface in Paul Gordon’s Analog and Vinyl. This is a show that offers an intellectual and artistic feast. Mr. Lampe-Wilson’s review really doesn’t do it justice. The cast displays plenty of talent, putting out their songs with energy, heart and good diction. They keep the dialogue moving and their comic sense of timing is spot on. One couldn’t ask for an evening of better entertainment.