As soon as upon a time, Regina Comet was a pop star who stuffed arenas. Now that her profession desperately wants a reboot, she and her staff have a superb concept: They are going to come out with a fragrance — sorry, a perfume, referred to as Relevance — and peg her comeback to it. Due to course listeners will simply observe that scent all the best way to Regina’s massive live performance.
Including a thick frosting of improbability to this far-fetched cake, Regina hires a pair of younger songwriters so unhip that they idolize Barry Manilow — in 2021 — to pen the tune her future will depend on, the jingle for the perfume.
The main target of the story will not be, as you may count on, Regina Comet, however quite the untried tunesmiths who merely, coyly, are referred to as Man 2 and Different Man, and are portrayed by the present’s creators, Ben Fankhauser and Alex Wyse. Starring roles however, Bryonha Marie Parham performs the title character in “A Commercial Jingle for Regina Comet” with tireless zest and good humor.
“Jingle” is usually set within the workplace of the writers, the place the partitions are lined with so many notes, papers and images that you simply may suppose they’re TV detectives monitoring a legal. (Wilson Chin did the scenic design, which seems to have been labor-intensive.) However the object of their obsessive hunt is much more elusive than the Zodiac Killer: They desperately need to write “One Hit Song.” This could be a sensible aim solely in a universe through which the Billboard cast-album chart decisively influenced mainstream popular culture.
Man 2 and Different Man invite Regina (who at all times wears a shapeless ’80s-style tracksuit) to brainstorm. She’s open to a samba, or perhaps some bossa nova, however the ensuing tune, “Say Hello,” appears like a show-tune-ized single from Backstreet Boys or ’NSync. It’s the most pleasurable variety of the night, but it additionally displays the manufacturing’s unsure tone: Are we meant to snigger with the ingenuity of the Males or at their ineptness?
Probably the most irritating aspect of the present is that regardless of a last-minute sort-of plot twist, Regina largely serves as an unwitting wedge between the rookies. Their relationship will get so tense that in a single significantly brutal dispute they chuck their notebooks to the ground in disgust.
The manufacturing, directed by Marshall Pailet, strikes at a gradual clip, and Fankhauser and Wyse throw a lot on the wall that on occasion, a joke acquires a weird type of sheen by means of sheer surrealism.
“I read she has an honorary degree in astrophysics,” Man 2 says of Regina. “That makes sense,” Different Man replies, “because her voice is so … good.”
Within the function of Different Man, Wyse, wanting like an overgrown summer time camper in his neat shirt and shorts — one other costume determination that’s arduous to parse — excels at this sort of alternate. Add his character’s penchant for borscht belt humor (“Take my Grandma, for instance,” one line begins, “no really, take her —”) and also you’re midway to an precise comedian function.
“A Commercial Jingle for Regina Comet,” an Off Broadway manufacturing, is the primary new in-person musical to open since Covid-19 shut down theaters final 12 months, and it seems like the primary pancake to come back out of the pan: It’s slightly undercooked, slightly misshapen, however we’ll eat it anyway as a result of hey, it’s nonetheless a pancake.
A Business Jingle for Regina Comet
By Nov. 14 at DR2 Theater, Manhattan; 800-447-7400, reginacomet.com. Operating time: 80 minutes.