TDPS's "Love and Pride" Joyfully Captures the Fun of Musical Theater

TDPS's "Love and Pride" Joyfully Captures the Fun of Musical Theater

Photo: Amy Thompson (UC Berkeley Department of Theater, Dance, and Performance Studies)

Photo: Amy Thompson (UC Berkeley Department of Theater, Dance, and Performance Studies)

TDPS’s new musical “Love and Pride” is a work in progress. This is not a criticism, but a fact—the show openly admits that it’s still in the early stages of development and actively invites audience input. Any work in its infancy is sure to have glaring flaws, since it will naturally be less refined. But in the case of “Love and Pride,” its unpolished feel is what makes it such an absolute pleasure to watch. At its worst, the show is awkward and clumsy. But at its best, it bubbles with contagious passion, irresistible fun, and genuine joy.  

            Directed, written, and choreographed by TDPS student Sy Bocalbos Jordan, “Love and Pride” is the result of a strong, singular vision. Jordan utilizes multiple storylines that often converge to capture the diversity of queer and trans experiences. Jordan conducted numerous interviews with members of the LGBTQ community in order to appropriately explore these varying viewpoints, and her research shows. “Love and Pride” presents characters across the spectrums of gender and sexuality with authenticity and respect. The score, also composed by Jordan, includes a variety of musical genres, from lively synth pop to pleasant acoustic ballads. As a composer, Jordan has a talent for formulating potent earworms—I’ve been humming many different tunes from the show for days.

Photo: Amy Thompson (UC Berkeley Department of Theater, Dance, and Performance Studies)

Photo: Amy Thompson (UC Berkeley Department of Theater, Dance, and Performance Studies)

Jordan’s greatest triumph as the show’s director is in capturing the enthusiasm of its cast. What they lack in finely tuned musicality or exceptional coordination, they make up for tenfold with their impassioned spirit, which the audience absorbs by musical osmosis. The entire cast delivers strong, devoted, and honest performances, although cast members Stephanie Toussaint and Mallory Penney especially stand out in giving fresh life to their characters.

Beyond its obvious mission to educate audiences about the nuances of gender and sexuality, “Love and Pride” also touches on unexpected subjects, like prejudice within the queer and trans communities, the value of enlightening bigots rather than rejecting them outright, and the importance of Yelping tattoo parlors before making an appointment. The show boasts obvious flaws, as do most works in the early stages of their development. One of its most glaring issues is its almost comically prejudiced villain, Andrew (talented vocalist Chad Joseph Theriault). Andrew is repulsed by queerness and obsessed with tradition to such an excessive extent that his repeated reactions of disgust and bigotry become almost comical in their melodrama. Another issue lies with the show’s second act, which slows down considerably. Whereas the first act moves with an impressive musical gusto—it boasts 11 songs—that propels the stories forward, the second act loses this momentum with far fewer songs and less urgent conflicts. But “Love and Pride” knows it’s a work in progress, and it will surely grow into an excellent pop musical as it is tweaked and revised.

Photo: Amy Thompson (UC Berkeley Department of Theater, Dance, and Performance Studies)

Photo: Amy Thompson (UC Berkeley Department of Theater, Dance, and Performance Studies)

 “Love and Pride” isn’t subtle. It’s often heavy handed and occasionally resembles an after school special. But its heavy handedness is ultimately endearing, and its straightforwardness makes it an easy and enjoyable watch. It fulfills its purpose with flying colors; it educates and entertains at once. Despite its kinks, “Love and Pride” encapsulates the best parts of musical theater. Every song, every scene, and every step is done with, well, love and pride. At every moment, it’s clear that each and every cast member truly loves and takes pride in being a part of this show. From the very first number, the poppy and dangerously catchy “Summer in San Francisco,” the entire cast exudes palpable excitement that immediately infects the audience. You can tell they’re having fun and enjoying their time on stage—how can we not enjoy it along with them?

There are lots of reasons to see “Love and Pride.” It’s an important show; it tells the stories of marginalized groups whose voices are largely ignored by mainstream media. It’s an informative show; it packs a lot of information about the complex spectrums of gender and sexuality into a palatable package. But most of all, it’s a truly entertaining show; “Love and Pride” is pure and concentrated musical theater fun.

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