In promising musical ‘Lucy & Charlie’s Honeymoon,’ couple celebrates with crime and catchy songs

Lookingglass’ road trip is fueled by irresistible melodies and lively performances.

SHARE In promising musical ‘Lucy & Charlie’s Honeymoon,’ couple celebrates with crime and catchy songs
LUCY_AND_CHARLIE_S_HONEYMOON._Aurora_Adachi_Winter_and_Artistic_Associate_Matthew_C._Yee._Photo_by_Liz_Lauren.jpg

Aurora Adachi-Winter and Matthew C. Yee play the giddy lovers of “Lucy and Charlie’s Honeymoon” at Lookingglass Theatre.

Liz Lauren

Early on in Matthew C. Yee’s ambitious, audacious new musical “Lucy and Charlie’s Honeymoon,” the titular newlyweds embark on a cockamamie robbery far more daffy than dangerous. They collect $242 from the register despite Charlie’s slushy-induced brain freeze, leaving behind security cam footage that quickly goes viral and shows the pair are hardly criminal masterminds. Their honeymoon road-trip adventure — part “Bonnie and Clyde,” part “Thelma and Louise,” wholly its own creation — forms the spine of a Lookingglass production with tremendous appeal and potential.

Fueled by a roster of twang-and-drawl country and western ballads and bangers, “Lucy and Charlie’s Honeymoon” is at its best when in song: Yee’s score is a cavalcade of rollicking foot-stompers, punk-tinged rockers and the-world-done-me-wrong countrified laments. Never mind stopping the show. Herein, you’ll find a rendition of “Streets of Laredo” that could stop a stampede of cattle in their tracks. If there’s a do-not-miss musical thus far this year, “Charlie and Lucy” is it.

Despite that killer score and director Amanda Dehnert’s capable cast, “Lucy and Charlie’s Honeymoon” falters at times. The show needs to lose a solid 20 minutes. Several secondary characters gobble up far too much stage time with campy, over-the-top shenanigans that go from mildly clever to farcically shrill and stupid in a hurry. But on the whole, Lookingglass’ world premiere points to Yee’s arrival as a musical theater composer who deserves a big stage.

‘Lucy & Charlie’s Honeymoon’

Lucy & Charlie

When: Through July 16

Where: Lookingglass Theatre at the Water Tower Water Works, 821 N. Michigan Ave.

Tickets: $35-$60

Run time: Two and a half hours, including one intermission

Info: lookingglass.org


“Lucy and Charlie” starts with its pile-driving epic opening number, “First Generation Asian-American Renegades.” In song, we learn Lucy and Charlie were raised by immigrant parents new to the U.S., intent on prodding their children to become superstars of the American Dream, or — per the lyrics — “super scientists or first-chair violinists.”

Lucy and Charlie rebel, embracing the life of petty criminal rebels without much of a clue. They meet in a dive bar, Lucy captivating Charlie with one of the most effective pickup lines ever: “Hey cool cowboy. I’m about to go f- - - with that bachelorette party. You got my back?”

Smitten both by being deemed a cool cowboy and by Lucy’s rebellious persona, Charlie falls hard. And so begins a road trip that’ll have the pair crossing paths with human traffickers, the FBI, revenge porn purveyors, the local constabulary and, ultimately, their own Asian American heritage. Like the rest of the eight-person ensemble, Lucy (Aurora Adachi-Winter) and Charlie (Yee) play their own instruments, the thrum and wail of electrified strings, keys and percussion filling the Lookingglass space to glorious effect.

Winter and Yee do the heavy lifting musically and dramatically, but they’re joined by a cast that knows how to get the most out of their material. As Charlie’s straight-laced brother Peter, Rammel Chan’s comic gifts get a stellar showcase. So do those of Mary Williamson as Peter’s law enforcement officer partner Feinberg, a karaoke queen who gifts the audience with that unforgettable rendition of “Streets of Laredo.”

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Rammel Chan (left) plays Charlie’s straight-laced brother, with Mary Williamson as his partner.

Liz Lauren

Harmony Zhang is a feisty heartbreaker as Bao, a young Chinese woman who has been flown to the U.S. by a “cleaning service” that’s demanding she pay off her beloved sister’s debt. When Lucy hears the service charges its immigrant employees for room and board and refuses to let them leave its employ (or their rooms) until their bills are paid, she resorts to a plan as extreme as you’d expect from someone with no compunction about taking on an entire bachelorette party.

The script falters with its villains, Martin (Doug Pawlik) and Gabriel (Matt Bittner). The crimes the pair facilitate and commit are heinous and shocking. Their on-stage personalities, however, are played as broad as a barn door, the script rendering them hopelessly silly when they should be truly sinister. There’s a similar issue with Charlie’s uncle Jeff (Daniel Lee Smith), a gaming addict, and his Grandma (Wai Ching Ho). Their scenes together need tightening, their characters are more noise than depth.

Still, there’s no stopping that score. The menacing drawl of “Find My Friends,” the sorrow-cut lilt of “I Was Never a Cool Cowboy,” and the oozing threats of “Pick Up the Phone” all point to Yee’s tremendous talent as a composer.

And kudos to costume designer Sully Ratke’s detailed work. From Lucy’s shredded, vintage “Blondie” T-shirt to the crimson embroidered appliques of Charlie’s tea ceremony shirt, the looks are marvelous.

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