Patty Griffin’s musical

Though it hasn’t exactly rocked the world, Patty Griffin’s musical, 10 Million Miles, has opened at New York’s Atlantic Theater Company. It’s the story of Molly (Irene Molloy) and Duane (Matthew Morrison), drivnig from Florida to Massachusetts. Molly is pregnant and plans to give up the baby for adoption, and Duane is just kind of hoping to wander into something better.

Now, my idea of heaven is to sit in darkened room (or perhaps a coastal deck at sunset) listening to Ms. Griffin’s music for hours. She is among the most humane, most gifted singer/songwriters out there. And the fact that she pushed herself outside the regular boundaries of recording and concert performance is a thrill in itself.

John Lahr’s review in the New Yorker is quite nice. He likes the direction by Michael Mayer (a recent Tony Award winner for Spring Awakening), who Lahr credits with “successfully mining new seams of expression in the American musical.”

Of Ms. Griffin’s music he says: “Griffin’s musical palette may be limited, but she has a genuine lyrical gift, and her compassion and candor are delivered in a refreshing folk idiom…Griffin writes well about the exhilaration of love, and she parses melancholy with a special bittersweetness.”

The New York Times review is less lovely, but Ben Brantley (who gives me a rash anyway), who says there are stretches of longeur, when “suddenly you glimpse a ray of beauty that, however fleeting, makes you glad you came along for the ride.

Most of those moments come courtesy of Patty Griffin, the immensely talented, country-hybrid, cult composer and performer who has lent 15 of her songs to this show, which features a book by the playwright Keith Bunin. Ms. Griffin, whose work has found its largest audience through recordings by higher-profile acts like the Dixie Chicks, writes cameo-carved songs that create complete emotional portraits of specific people.”

He also adds: “10 Million Miles still sparkles with signs of hope, not for this show’s future prospects, but for the use of country-inflected music in narrative theater. When the four cast members sing, you often feel as if you’re looking right inside them, to the point of violating their characters’ privacy. This is never truer than when the singer is Mare Winningham, a film and television actress who emerges here as a musical performer to reckon with.”

Here’s hoping the show has a long, successful life and that — oh, please, oh, please — that it receives an original cast recording.

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