Listen to a “Lullaby”: An emotional and hilarious world premiere at the Ritz

“When he left the music stopped.”

This phrase is often heard throughout the play “Lullaby,” now showing at the Ritz Theater, through the Latte Da Theater Company. This is a play with music at its center. Though humorous, “Lullaby” presents a heartfelt take on dealing with pain.

Due to their emotional performances of naturally-occurring songs, the small and experienced cast allows the audience to become invested in each character. Nothing feels forced. One character, a depressive man who plays guitar to cope, plays alongside a “dyke bar” owner and open-mike performer, going through a jarring break-up. The wonderfully designed set and creative lighting brings the audience into the intimate world of the production. The music moved me in a way I have rarely experienced at any production.

I sat near the usher, and as people came in, the number one question was: “Is this a musical?” It took the usher a while to find the best response. In the end she said, “It’s not a musical, but a play with music.” This is fairly apt, but could perhaps be better said as “music with a play.” While in other musicals some audience members may be pulled out of the story by the seemingly random outbursts of song, these songs drew me in more and more as they appeared. I could see people in my row lean in as the first chords sounded, in order to fully understand what needed to be heard. There is something about music that gets to the heart of an emotion, and “Lullaby” helped me realize this.

It is a play written by a loving father about memories of his son, and directed by a father of the same son, keeping the writer’s message true in a unique way not often seen. Both father and son realize that the message of perseverance is one that should be taken as a motto in daily life. It is a message that transforms the characters and allows them to find some relief in the final song, “Lullaby”.

The plot sometimes gave me a “Next to Normal” vibe, with ghosts of the past and common themes of learning to live with grief. The second act took a different turn. One big difference is that this show stressed the grief and love we have for our partners, something that I know I can more easily identify with than motherhood.

Coming to terms with terrible things that happen in our lives challenges us all, and at times arts, like music, are needed for us to communicate this. For this reason, “Lullaby” was very important for me to see, and I would highly recommend it to young adults, theater lovers and musicians at Macalester.

“Lullaby” is showing at 7:30 p.m. on February 3-6, and at 2:00 p.m. on February 7 at the Ritz Theater in Minneapolis.