Perfect Harmony (musical)
Perfect Harmony is an a cappella musical comedy by Andrew Grosso and the Essentials about the greatest a cappella group in high school history, eighteen-time national champions, the Acafellas. It's also about their classmates and female counterpart, perennial runners up, the Ladies in Red. Through song and story, we see these students grapple with the weighty issues of truth, love, and what constitutes appropriate choreography for Nationals. As the story unfolds, we learn not just about these students themselves but also about the true nature of harmony.
|Book||Andrew Grosso & The Essentials|
|Productions||2005 Studio Tisch at NYU |
2006 FringeNYC / Fringe Encore
2008 Off-Off Broadway
2010 Stoneham, Massachusetts
2010 Off Broadway
Perfect Harmony features a cappella arrangements of hit songs by The Jackson 5, Pat Benatar, Billy Idol, Marvin Gaye, Scandal, Tiffany, The Romantics, The Pretenders, Blue Swede, The Temptations, The Contours, The Commodores, Tommy James & the Shondells, B.J. Thomas and The Partridge Family.
Perfect Harmony was written by Andrew Grosso and developed with The Essentials. The Essentials for Perfect Harmony were David Barlow, Jeffrey Binder, Drew Cortese, Meg DeFoe, Autumn Dornfeld, Alec Duffy, Cameron Folmar, Santino Fontana, Jordan Gelber, Scott Janes, Nicole Lowrance, Vayu O’Donnell, Thomas Piper, Maria Elena Ramirez, Jeanine Serralles, Margie Stokley, Marina Squerciati, Noah Weisberg, Margot White, Blake Whyte, and Marshall York.
A cappella vocal arrangements for Perfect Harmony are by Adam Wachter, with additional arrangements by Ray Bailey and Jeremy Gussin. Ray Bailey and Adam Wachter provided arrangements for the Off Broadway production.
Perfect Harmony made its Off Broadway debut at Theatre Row's Acorn Theatre in October, 2010 after a preview period at 45 Bleecker Theatre and an out-of-town run at the Stoneham Theatre, in Stoneham, Massachusetts. The Off Broadway production was directed by Andrew Grosso and co-produced by celebrity reporter and nightlife personality Michael Musto.
Originally created as a workshop at NYU Graduate Acting's Studio Tisch program, Perfect Harmony premiered at FringeNYC in 2006, had an extended run at the Fringe Encore Series, and in 2008 played Off-Off Broadway at the Clurman Theatre.
The first day of the school year begins, as always, with the singing of the “Alma Mater” by the school's two a cappella groups: the world-famous, all male, Acafellas and their perennially overshadowed classmates, the all female, Ladies in Red.
Applauding them as he addresses the assembly, Dr. Mergh, the high school psychologist, cautions that while he feels the community should recognize the tremendous accomplishments of these champion boy singers – and that “the girls try hard too, of course” – he is concerned about the pressure of tight harmony singing and worries that a cappella is a cult that this year will finally be “claiming its victims”.
The Acafellas (Philip, Lassiter, Jasper, and JB) sing “Get Ready” to demonstrate to all the auditioning freshmen exactly how it's done. In the audience, Simon Depardieu is fighting nervousness since he's a bit of a late bloomer, even for a freshman. His nerves only get worse when he hears that Lassiter, the Acafellas’ pitch, is looking for a talented musician who knows how to blend, JB is hoping for a cool dude, and Philip wants a guy who won’t screw up their championship vibe. Simon knows he doesn’t exactly check those boxes. He gives a powerful but highly unorthodox audition with “Three Times A Lady”.
Meanwhile, the Ladies in Red (Melody, Meghan, Mickey, Valerie, and their student manager Kerri) are already in crisis. Valerie apologizes for abandoning the group at Nationals last year by locking herself in the janitor's closet so she wouldn’t have to be looked at, and promises she’ll be there this year. Meghan challenges Melody's decision to keep singing the same old songs, especially “My Life Flows On In Endless Song, How Can I Keep From Singing”. Melody co-opts the insubordination, for now, by making Meghan their new soloist, and changing the name of the group to Lady Treble.
On Tap Day, the Acafellas arrive to induct Simon into the group, only he's confused by their song, “Mony Mony”. But as the Acafellas’ singing progresses, he understands and then joyfully joins in. The group is complete.
However, the plans for both groups are thrown awry when they learn that this year Nationals will be held at their high school and will be televised live on MTV 3!
Meghan and Mickey decide that MTV 3 necessitates new choreography and demonstrate “What I Like About You”, but Melody worries that it's perhaps a little “loose” and she performs a more ladylike version.
Lassiter worries that the announcement “is a setback. All anyone can think about is what color cummerbunds we should wear when we hoist the trophy on MTV 3”. He resolves to teach the guys to stop focusing on winning and start focusing on musical truth. He teaches the group a new song, “Back On The Chain Gang”, and wants them to “forget about the words. Just sing your from inside; what you’d say if you were on a chain gang”. But the Acafellas are resistant to his methods. A standoff ensues that is only resolved when Philip admits that the guys are nervous that they’ll embarrass themselves. Lassiter promises that the Acafellas will win Nationals and Philip promises that the group will follow Lassiter.
On a quiet corner on campus, Meghan tries to help Valerie learn to be looked at. Valerie suggests that Meghan date Jasper but Meghan objects vehemently saying “No, he’s Melody’s boyfriend. We can’t even talk about talking about that”. She then suggests that Valerie and Simon could get together and practice their perfect pitch.
At the Christmas Concert the Acafellas suffer a humiliatingly disastrous performance, and so the boys vote to abandon Lassiter's new method. In a huff, Lassiter relinquishes the pitchpipe, stunning the group and walking away from his best friend, Philip.
The girls sounded great behind their new soloist, Meghan. They are all delighted that Melody's new plan is working, only she casually mentions that Meghan has some room for improvement – specifically, her dancing is a distraction. Determined to do better, Meghan tries to practice singing without dancing with “My Life Flows On In Endless Song”, but it's no use; she sounds better when she moves. Frustrated, she cheers herself up by singing her favorite song, “Do You Love Me (Now That I Can Dance)”. Walking past the room, Jasper overhears and joins her. Initially startled, Meghan sings back and they duet – until Melody overhears and catches them. She grabs Jaspers hand, insults Meghan and leaves her alone to ponder what she's done.
A month later, the Acafellas are trying to adjust to life without Lassiter. JB has convinced them to let him sing a solo, “Easy”, only JB has turned it into a star turn slow jam. Watching JB sing, Kiki Tune, an unscrupulous talent agent, convinces JB to quit school and become a professional a cappella superstar. And so the Acafellas are forced to soldier on with only three singers. They try to sing “I Think We’re Alone Now”, but it's no use – Philip can’t hit the high notes and lashes out when Simon suggests they invite Lassiter to return.
Lassiter tries his hand at composing but can’t find inspiration. Philip continues to practice his new part by himself. Simon, having just lost his idol JB, sings the duet they learned in happier times, “I Think I Love You”. As he sings, his voice drifts through the vents to Lassiter in the library and Philip in the music room. Hypnotically they join in and all three trio on the song.
Still unable to sing high enough and with only a week left before Regionals, Philip visits the legendary voice whisperer, Toby McClintoch. She explains that his problem is not singing high enough, it is singing “inside enough”. Philip is baffled until she counsels that nothing can cure his voice in a week, as “only two things work instantly in this world: love and drugs”.
At Regionals Philip announces to the audience that the three remaining Acafellas are about to perform an arrangement normally sung by five voices. They sing “I Think We’re Alone Now” and nail all five parts!
Backstage, Meghan tries to apologize to Melody and explain that nothing happened with Jasper. Melody cuts her off and says that she would never let personal feelings interfere with Lady Treble. But when the girls go out on stage to perform and Meghan steps forward for her solo, Melody steals the spotlight and start singing the solo instead. The two battle for control in “Goodbye to You”.
Regionals is over and the Acafellas have won first place. Again. But when the Acafellas’ collective urine sample tests positives for banned substances, the boys are forced to give back the winning trophy. Philip blames Simon and is about to kick him out of the group when JB returns. JB dismisses the drug test results saying, “false positives happen all the time” and announces that he left the professional a cappella world because he knew his friends were hurting and needed him to help get the group back together. He, Jasper and Simon force Lassiter and Philip to finally confront each other and tell each other how they truly feel.
Later that afternoon, Valerie confides to Simon how nervous she is about being looked at by the audiences at Nationals and on MTV 3. Simon suggests she find something that covers her, like a wet suit.
The Acafellas strut on stage singing The Jackson Five's “I Want You Back”. They sound fantastic, but Philip stops the song and confesses publicly that he is actually the reason that the boys failed their drug test at Regionals; he used his stepmother's home botox kit to help him hit the high notes. He apologizes to Lassiter, Simon and all the guys and walks off stage saying they can still win without him. Just as he is about to exit the auditorium, Simon calls out to him and begins singing “I Want You Back”. Going into the audience, Simon brings Philip back to the group and the boys insist he sing with them. Acknowledging finally that “it’s not about winning”, Philip jumps back on stage and joins them. Now complete, the Acafellas sound amazing.
Meanwhile, backstage, Valerie has disappeared again despite her promises. In a panic, Melody insists that their student manager Kerri sing Valerie's part, commanding her to “not let this be a disaster”. As the applause for the boys dies down, Lady Treble enters the stage and they sing their old standby, “My Life Flows On In Endless Song, How Can I Keep from Singing”. Valerie finally enters, unusually, and something goes terribly awry, knocking down all the girls except Kerri. She is terrified, but refuses to let it be a disaster, and slowly starts singing. Gathering strength with every note, she unleashes a powerful and passionate voice that blows the roof off! Moved by the force of Kerri's performance, the girls of Lady Treble get up and join her, and they have never sounded better.
As the two groups recover from performances at Nationals that were nothing like they expected, Valerie and Simon compose a new arrangement to commemorate the year, a song about joy – the joy of being in the sound. The two groups join to sing Pat Benatar's “We Belong” and everyone takes a solo line. ‘For worse or for better, they belong, they belong together.’
Philip Fellowes V - High School Senior. A third generation Acafella, slightly stuffy, somewhat pompous but also has a strong sense of inherent decency. Lassiter's best friend, though they can’t speak to each other directly. Generally supportive of the group and other members, but desperately wants to win Nationals ... at all costs. Begins to crack, crumbling under the pressure he has placed on himself and the group.
Lassiter A. Jayson III - High School Senior. Pitchpipe of the Acafellas. Considers himself an artist; intensely searching for “truth” – in his art, his friendships, and himself. Passionate about artistic purity; worries the group is too obsessed with winning. Takes himself very seriously. Looking to push the group in a new direction, one he believes is bolder and more creative.
Jasper Mergh - High School Junior. Handsome, charismatic, surprisingly, something of a school heartthrob. Not mute per se, although he doesn’t speak, he has a stunning singing voice. He's dated Melody since freshman year. Good-hearted, just wants to sing and share his song.
JB Smooter - High School Senior. Jock. Quarterback turned singer. Women swoon for him. Dudes want to be him. Now that he's discovered a cappella, he just wants to sing with the guys. Viewed by some as not particularly bright, he's a good guy and positive influence on the others in the group.
Simon Depardieu - High School Freshman. Not yet an Acafella at the start of the play, he has dreamed of making the group and practices his song for his mom every night; just hopes his canker sores and occasional bouts of lockjaw don’t interfere with his audition. Kind, gentle. Has crush on Valerie.
Melody McDaniels - High School Senior. Both Pitch and President of the Ladies in Red. Pretty, but doesn’t expect all the girls in the group to be pretty too; she's not unrealistic. Talented, preternaturally poised, and ferociously hardworking; she wishes just once someone would give The Ladies in Red the proper credit they’ve worked so hard for. Yes, she and Jasper are dating, but her focus is on the group's work.
Michaela Dhiardeaubovic / “Mickey D” - High School Sophomore. Very happy to be in the group, even if she has to keep her participation a secret from her brother. Loves the girls, loves singing, Though she has a little trouble remembering the right words in English. Thinks that sometimes the other girls in the group are too uptight. She's from Herzegovina.
Valerie Smooter - High School Sophomore. It's fair to say she doesn’t love performing, but she's determined not to repeat last year's debacle at Regionals where she panicked and locked herself in the janitor's closet. Witty, cutting – hopefully just in her comments. Her older brother is the school's resident hunk, JB.
Meghan Beans - High School Junior. Pretty, but a bit of a live wire. She's greatly misunderstood; doesn’t know why people are propagating rumors about her behavior. Really wishes the group could do more dancing and would have flashier costumes. She's always wanted a solo. Jesus is the only one who understands her. But maybe Jasper would too, if she could just get to know him better. Totally a belter – to her, singing is less about the right pitch, and more about how you express yourself.
Kerri Taylor - High School Sophomore. Student Manager of the Ladies in Red. Doesn’t have Tourette's, but it seems like it. She’d sing if there wasn’t the potential for onstage embarrassment. Loves being the manager, it's a pretty essential position to the team's success. Ideally, this actress should truly be a great belter.
Dr. Larry Mergh - School psychologist. Kind-hearted; knows how dangerous a cappella singing can be on a young mind.
Goran Dhiardeaubovic - Older brother, only living relative and legal guardian to Mickey D. Angry, protective, controlling, but ultimately harmless.
Kiki Tune - Brash talent agent. Predatory and unabashed about it.
Tobi McClintock - World-famous vocal therapist. She's a “voice whisperer”, deeply empathetic, overly dramatic and excited about curing youngsters of their self-inflicted vocal traumas.
Cast list of notable productions.
|Role||Off Broadway / Stoneham, MA||Off-Off Broadway||FringeNYC||Studio Tisch|
|Melody McDaniels||Dana Acheson||Dana Acheson||Autumn Dornfeld||Autumn Dornfeld|
|Valerie Smooter||Faryl Amadeus||Margie Stokley||Margie Stokley||Margie Stokley|
|Jasper Mergh / Dr. Larry Mergh||Clayton Apgar||Clayton Apgar||Blake Whyte||Blake Whyte|
|Kerri Taylor / Tobi McClintoch||Marie-France Arcilla||Nisi Sturgis||Marina Squerciati||Marina Squerciati|
|Simon Depardieu / Goran Dhiardeubovic||David Barlow||Sean Dugan||David Barlow||David Barlow|
|Mickey D / Kiki Tune||Kate Morgan Chadwick||Kathy Searle||Jeanine Serralles||Jeanine Serralles|
|JB Smooter||Jarid Faubel||Scott Janes||Scott Janes||Scott Janes|
|Philip Fellowes V||Kobi Libii||Benjamin Huber||Noah Weissberg||Santino Fontana|
|Meghan Beans||Kelly McCreary||Amy Rutberg||Maria Elena Ramirez||Maria Elena Ramirez|
|Lassiter A. Jayson III||Robbie Collier Sublett||Vayu O’Donnell||Vayu O’Donnell||Jeff Binder|
|Understudy for the Ladies in Red||Tate Evans||Tate Evans|
|Understudy for the Acafellas||Marshall York|
Perfect Harmony received positive reviews when it premiered at the Harry de Jur Playhouse in New York City. Leonard Jacobs from Backstage stated that the musical was "magnificently hilarious! The harmonies – typically absurd versions of pop songs – range from lovely to ridiculous to riotous."  and Talkin’ Broadway found that "Perfect Harmony tackles its spot-on satire with an unflinching seriousness that, by evening’s end, becomes unbearably funny." 
For the Off Broadway debut at Theatre Row, the New York Post's Frank Scheck praised "it’s hard to resist this musical comedy. If you can’t get enough of glee clubs and energetic vocals that soar, Perfect Harmony is the show for you"  and Time Out New York said "Glee addicts will find perfect pitch in this musical comedy about the most acclaimed singing club in the history of high school." 
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- "2009 : the best women's stage monologues and scenes". www.worldcat.org. Retrieved 3 January 2013.
- "Dana Acheson, Kelly McCreary and Clayton Apgar Set for Perfect Harmony Off-Broadway". Playbill.com. Retrieved 31 December 2012.
- "Perfect Harmony". Stoneham Theatre. Retrieved 31 December 2012.
- "Stoneham Theatre presents Perfect Harmony". www.abouttheartists.com. Retrieved 3 January 2013.
- "I'm Producing an Off-Broadway Musical!". Village Voice Blog. Retrieved 31 December 2012.
- "Perfect Harmony Returns as Part of FringeNYC Encores". broadwayworld.com. Retrieved 30 April 2014.
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- "The Essentials presents Perfect Harmony". www.abouttheartists.com. Retrieved 3 January 2013.
- "Mickey Rapkin's A Cappella Theater". www.pitchperfect-thebook.blogspot.com. Retrieved 29 December 2016.
- "Past Productions". perfectharmonyrocks.com. Retrieved 31 December 2012.
- "Backstage: Perfect Harmony Review". Backstage. Retrieved 29 April 2017.
- "Talkin' Broadway: Perfect Harmony Review". Talkin’ Broadway. Retrieved 29 April 2017.
- "New York Post: Perfect Harmony Review". New York Post. Retrieved 29 April 2017.
- "Time Out New York: Perfect Harmony Review". Time Out New York. Retrieved 29 April 2017.
- "Essential Cast Recording of Perfect Harmony". perfectharmonyrocks.com. Retrieved 29 April 2017.
- Perfect Harmony Official Website
- Perfect Harmony on the Internet Off-Broadway Database
- Andrew Grosso, writer of Perfect Harmony
- Interview with Andrew Grosso and Michael Musto
- Photos from the Off Broadway Production on Broadway World.com
- Opening Night Video of the Off Broadway production
- Adam Wachter, Vocal Arranger for Perfect Harmony
- Samuel French, Inc. - Licensing for Perfect Harmony