The Off-Broadway scene just got a lot weirder with “Found,” a meticulously crafted musical from the minds of Hunter Bell and Lee Overtree, who wrote the book. With music and original lyrics provided by Eli Bolin, the musical oozes with quirkiness and idiosyncrasy.
Based on Found Magazine, created by Davy Rothbart, the musical rendition follows the story of Davy (Nick Blaemire) and his two friends Mikey D (Daniel Everidge) and Denise (Barrett Wilbert Weed), who repurpose fleeting instances of human interaction by creating a magazine of found notes.
The apt opening number performed by a sincere Blaemire, whose natural delivery appears unscripted, says it all — it’s a “Weird Day.” And by the closing number, “Stay Weird,” this zany musical is sandwiched in a fizz of oddity. Seeping through the grab bag of outlandish notes is a storyline that, though relatively banal, somehow succeeds in feeling fresh and stimulating — something unlike what audiences have seen before.
Like the narrators of an elementary school play, members of the eclectic ensemble enter from the wings to explain what is happening, but in an experimental and innovative way that incorporates the found notes, which are projected onto the stage, and reveals subtext. The cleverly integrated notes support the scene and saturate it with humor, despair, honesty and peculiarity. The unique chorus element is also full of brilliantly delivered one-liners from Found Magazine — “Did you fall in the sewer yesterday? Write Back,” “If you want the key back, bring the urn back, no questions asked.” Every performer shines onstage and brings a unique comedic eccentricity to the note-plastered stage.
“Found” bursts with cultural references bound to generate nostalgia — memorable note-inspired numbers include “Old Country Buffet” and “Johnny Tremain.” Both are seamlessly incorporated into the plot and are hilarious. All of songs are touching, whether they evoke an emotion, a person, an experience or if they muse on a break-up that somehow involves a barf bag. This show conveys something important about the comprehensive human experience, making viewers feel less alone and part of something bigger — humanity.
Bolin imbues the score with a rawness that reflects the spontaneity of the production. His music remarkably renders the irregular prose lyrical. Though sometimes outshone by the often bizarre notes serving as lyrics, the orchestration is astoundingly well-composed and quite beautiful in its own haphazard and unconventional way. The score is modern, energized, toe-tapping and pulsing. Bolin succeeds with various original songs and lyrics, notably “Stupid Love,” featuring Weed’s beautiful vocals, and an energized harmony of Betsy Morgan’s powerfully emotive voice with Blaemire’s in “Killin’ It”.
The catchy score complements Monica Bill Barnes’ carefree, buoyant choreography, which features simple moves infused with ebullience and personality. It gives the impression of someone uninhibitedly dancing alone in a bedroom, fist-pumping, twirling and kicking.
“Found” has a neat element of reciprocity — this first-of-a-kind DIY musical doubles as a sort of community art project and an intimate and interactive experience created by missed connections, all regifted in a moving musical form. It is eccentric, profane, brilliantly random and spontaneous, and it uniquely captures the shared human experience.
“Found” is playing at Atlantic Theater Company, 336 W. 20th St., through Nov. 9.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, Oct. 28 print edition. Email Caroline Cunfer at [email protected]