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With the profusion of reality television shows, one might almost have predicted that the reality stage musical was just a character song away.

Writing gurus constantly advise: "Write what you know." Eric Endres' ambitious musical "A Week in the Life" has the allure of biography without the self-indulgence. It's good -- not perfect, but good.

True, Endres drew inspiration and characters from his real life day job to shape the book, lyrics and music but the realistic office banter and politics add credibility to a plot that has all the earmarks of a juicy farce. The cast is strong and sings in tune.

Set in the Customer Service department of KLN, a large computer accessories store, we spend five days in the life of Ginter (played by Endres), an Everyman, and his unappreciated associates.

There's the tart-tongued Donna (Melissa Cumming) and her partner in gossip and rumors, Nancy Lou (Susana Breese).

Kevin Smith plays Randy, the hot-to-trot office manager whose name describes his character. Every office needs a work shirker and Holly (Natalie Sabo), despite her mantra of "I'll take care of it," has a pile of backed-up work folders on her desk that is treetop tall.

Karen Szalach is Daisy, the attractive cleaning lady who has a crush on Ginter; Matthew Mooney is Gene, the snappy patter guy, and Jennifer Caruana plays Lanie, the temp who just might break Ginter's heart.

If the title conjures up memories of the Beatles' "Day in The Life," you should know that Ginter's two passions are the Fab Four and UFOs. The resolution even relies upon the combination a deus ex machina and a dead Beatle.

The stagecraft might be MIA (missing in action), a term KSN's Customer Service people are fond of using, but the ideas, emotions and commitment of Endres and his cast are impressive.

"Just Customer Service," sung by Donna, Gene and Nancy Lou, sets up one side of the two-pronged plot: "WE'RE JUST CUSTOMER SERVICE AND IT'S ALWAYS THE SAME, WHEN THINGS GO RIGHT SOMEONE ELSE TAKES THE CREDIT/WHEN THEY GO WRONG, WE TAKE THE BLAME." Ginter follows with "A Dollar a Day," a litany of complaints about being an underpaid, overworked 40-year-old divorced father of two.

In the course of the evening, we hear about Ginter's childhood dream to be "the Fifth Beatle," his date and dream of love with Lanie, the temp ("All That I Can Give You" and his ultimate decision to not "write off" his life.

Notable moments include "S.O.L.," Nancy Lou's hilarious phone conversation with a displeased customer; "Cover Your Butt," a Latin number that evokes the rooftop dance from "West Side Story," and Daisy's pretty lullaby, "The Hero of Your Dreams."

Listening to the songs on a complimentary CD, it is clear that the words and music are very catchy. At their best, they evoke the genuineness of Randy Newman and John Lennon.

I was charmed and impressed with many parts of "A Week in the Life." However, to quote Gabby's advice to Stine the writer in "City of Angels": "It needs work."

The book gets too morally heavy by the final curtain. A love story with Daisy is hinted at but not delivered. The audience wants and deserves a happy ending, not a catechism.

At two hours and 45 minutes, it's too long and the pacing is too slow. Also, too often, gag lines are substituted for character development. The characters are believable; let us hear them talk not just deliver gags.

"A Week in the Life," as it stands, is entertaining. With judicious cuts, tightening and some minor restructuring, it holds the promise of a creative career.

Also in the cast, directed by Elaine Roberts, were Kevin Cheney, Steven Dawson, Richard Fitzgerald, Marilyn Sue Hudson, Delores LaFalce, Cathie Puleo, David Wrazien and Brittany Ziarnowski.



RATING: * * 1/2

A world premiere musical by local playwright Eric Endres.

Starring Karen Szalach, Susana Breese, Melissa Cumming and Matthew Mooney. Directed by Elaine Roberts: choreography by Karan Osland.

Continues through June 7 in Alleyway Theatre, 1 curtain up Alley. 633-4695.

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