This is one of the biggest wastes of good source material in the entire decade of the 2000s, right up there with Thou Shalt Not and Bernarda Alba (okay, maybe not as bad as that last one, but still…) It’s based on a by all accounts rather fascinating German film called Men, and the story it inherited from that source is actually kind of brilliant. The problem is that this is a case of the practice that Ken Mandelbaum dubbed “Chop and drop”: the only thing the musical really adds to the material is inserting an utter dud of a score into the existing story.
Not only does it consist of poor lyrics set to forgettable musical filler (except perhaps the decently touching ballad “The Better Man Won”), it makes the characters in this brilliantly constructed plot come off as insipid and irritating, which precludes our emotional involvement and thus kind of ruins the story. For example, the wife’s indictment of her husband, “Because” has one of the show’s few decent tunes, but the lyrics are groan-inducing and make her sound like an idiot (‘because he makes me drool’).
“Oh! What a Man!” is an utterly asinine opening number, and the finale, “You Can Have It All”, manages to sour what should have been an absolutely perfect ending. “Take Me Into You” is one of the dreariest ballads I’ve ever heard, with a lifeless tune and a stupid double-entendre of a lyric. “The Greatest Friend” has a great concept, thanks to its place in the story, but the dull tune makes it far less effective than it should be.
The comedy numbers are even worse, a string of witless, irritating wordplay and painfully obvious ‘insights’ about male/female relationships. The embarrassing “Downtown Bohemian Slum” and the labored “One-Woman Man” in particular are two of the most annoying showtunes of the decade.
The songs seem to be trying to recreate the effect of DiPietro’s first hit, I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change, which was actually rather charming in a low-key way. But not only are the songs much worse-written this time around, but the fairly generic style of that score, which worked well in a revue format built around relationship archetypes, just doesn’t suffice when musicalizing the very specific and individual characters this show inherited from its source.
As I said, Joe Dipietro had some modest artistic success with I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change, but despite his at least serviceable libretto to Nice Work If You Can Get It, this show, the Toxic Avenger musical, Living On Love , and frankly even his book for Memphis, make it clear that he should really not be allowed to do story musicals.