I saw "Radiant Baby", the new musical about Keith Haring, at the Public Theater tonight. My title above comes from one of the less successful songs of the evening, but overall I think it worked. I really don't like conventional musical theater, with songs that sound either like pop songs or something from a 1950s Broadway musical.
It starts off slowly, but it becomes quite compelling once we reach the Paradise Garage. The scene begins with a diva (sung by Angela Robinson) holding a note for about 45 seconds before the house music begins. The whole scene is a funny and hot tribute to a time that once was. It's also the first time the music is actually interesting.
Three children (actually sung by children) act as the chorus, and given the fact that Haring worked with children throughout his career, it's my favorite aspect of the musical. Other highlights: the incredibly talented cast; Aaron Lohr is compelling and very hot as Keith's lover Carlos, and Julee Cruise as Andy Warhol.
I hadn't realized that Tseng Kwong Chi and Haring were so close. Some of the iconic photographs of Keith's work, like the body painting of Bill T. Jones or of Grace Jones, are by Kwong. He is a major character in the musical.
The visual design is quite good, and I like the fact that when they talk about his work near the end of his life they end up with his Ignorance=Fear / Silence = Death ACT UP poster.
I think it's worth seeing, but because of the history and the people involved, rather than because it is a great achievement in theater. I really felt that a musical about Keith Haring deserved music with more edge than this, except for certain fabulous scenes like the Paradise Garage, provided.