While a rebellious teenager may claim that "It's my life!" and that drinking, drugs and whatever periphery sleaze and immorality surfaces along the way affects only that one particular youth this self-centered attitude is also a blatant lie.Maybe they're just too desensitized to take notice, but the entire family mom, dad, siblings is victimized by drug abuse, along with the youth's circle of friends and extended family.
"It's My Life!" takes a brief, hourlong look at a hard-as-nails teenage girl caught up in just such a situation.
Defiant, angry and moody, Cindy played with tremendous range by Emily Pearson has literally turned her family's life upside-down. She's stark-raving mad with rage one minute, sullen and depressed the next.
Her mother, played convincingly by Heather Young, is plagued with guilt, certain that Cindy's problems are her fault. It's obvious that Young is a mother herself, and those deeply felt emotions come through.
Her father (Nelden V. Maxfield) has come to the rude awakening that "it hurts like hell" that the situation has gone far beyond the point where Daddy can "make it better" like he used to.
One of the most poignant confrontations during the production is that between Becky, Cindy's little sister (played by Rachel de Azevedo) and Cindy. It's during this sequence that some of the cracks start to appear in Cindy's tough exterior.
"It's My Life!" is a powerful drama with music that focuses on just one way of tackling a drug abuse problem. The technique is "intervention," which involves family and friends literally trapping the victim into doing something positive about the drug problem or else.
In addition to Cindy's family, other characters in the ensemble are a high school friend (Lisa, played by Heidi Jensen), a drug rehab program counselor (Jared Shaver), and Randy, an old friend from Cindy's ever-widening circle of druggie friends (a pivotal character played forcefully by Cody Hale).
"You're screwed up, Cindy" says Randy, who has exchanged one set of wheels his motorcycle for another set a wheelchair, following a drug-related accident that took the life of one of his best friends. "You've got one last chance to wake up and this is it."
Featuring music with moving, dramatic lyrics from heart-wrenching refrains to energetic, upbeat (and uplifting) youth-oriented musical numbers, writer Carol Lynn Pearson and composer Lex de Azevedo have created a production which should have a positive impact on the very group it is targeted for today's confused, frustrated youth.
A couple of songs in particular "I Wanna Go Up," a duet with Cindy and Randy, and the choral finale, "Love Song to Life," could probably be released as singles and become popular in the teenage market.
A 60-member youth chorus, composed of singers from several Salt Lake City area high schools, is also a key factor in the success of this production.
It would be interesting to see how all of this works in a high school setting (which is what "It's My Life!" was written for), instead of the mostly professional cast assembled for what is essentially a "showcase" presentation for the 1988 conference of the Utah Federation for Drug Free Youth.
We could quibble about some minor shortcomings. Symphony Hall, of course, is not really the best setting for a theatrical work, but director Ben Lokey and his crews did the best they could under the circumstances. The Capitol Theatre would have been a better site, but since the drug conference is at Symphony Hall and the Salt Palace, Lokey and de Azevedo have done an admirable job in converting the orchestral shell into a proscenium theater sort of.
The scaffolding at the rear of the stage, where the chorus sings and dances, was very effective.
There are also three screens above the scaffolding where several slides are projected during the course of the play in order to establish a proper mood vibrant and often sinister during the "druggie" segments, then idyllic and pastoral during the ray-of-hope finale. The photography was effective, but the screens could've been a little higher. (Again, considering that Thursday was the first day the crew had a chance to get everything set up, they did a commendable job.)
And given the restrictive timeframe less than an hour de Azevedo and Pearson have done a remarkable job of turning the trauma of "intervention" into a compact musical-drama.
"It's My Life" was written in such a way that it can be peformed by high school groups and community theater troupes. It's a royalty-free play, and both scripts and scores are available through Embryo Music, 180 S. 300 West, Suite 450, Salt Lake City, UT 84101, or by calling (801) 532-6114.