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In the new Broadway show Stereophonic, the year is 1976 and a band on the verge of superstardom is recording their next album in Sausalito, California. We never learn the band’s name nor do we hear the single from their last album that just shot to Number One a year after its release, but over three hours, we get to know the weaknesses, fears, anxieties and hopes of all five members — and the two rookie engineers trapped in the studio with them for the next 12 months.

Written by David Adjmi, Stereophonic is an absolute triumph of a show, a delicious four-course meal about a band packin’ up, shackin’ up, and attempting to keep their success going, as scary as it may seem.

Taking place entirely within the confines of the Sausalito studio (though it’s never named, that happens to be where the famed Record Plant was located during this time), this British-American quintet lays out their dynamic quickly. Alcoholic bassist Reg (Will Brill) founded the band with his longtime mate Simon (Chris Stack), the drummer trying to keep the party going and the band intact. Simon’s wife and kids are back in the UK, but he has enough drugs and girls to keep him distracted as the month-long session keeps extending. Reg is married to keyboardist and singer Holly (Juliana Canfield), the most grounded and least-drug addled of the group. She’s close with the other girl in the band, Diana (Sarah Pidgeon), a fast-talking American singer/tambourine player who feels insecure about her art in spite of her song being their breakthrough hit. Diana’s boyfriend Peter (Tom Pecinka) is the stubborn guitarist and third singer who has appointed himself as not only the band’s leader but also the de facto producer. His ego and obsessiveness has made him a bit of a menace to the entire group, especially his long-suffering girlfriend.

Keyboardist Holly, played by Juliana Canfield

Julieta Cervantes*

Sound familiar? Stereophonic might as well be titled Who’s Afraid of Fleetwood Mac? given all the covert and not-so-covert references to the band, whose 1977 album Rumours was a cocaine- and breakup-fueled mega success with lore as great and timeless as the songs themselves. Adjmi chalks up his influences to several bands from that era but the Fleetwood Mac framework is the most apparent and fleshed out, right down to the fictional band’s interpersonal and professional relationships.

Often helping lighten the mood are the two engineers the band has kept locked in the studio for longer and longer days as the band sprirals out into heartbreak and mania over the album. Sweet but painfully awkward Charlie (Andrew R. Butler) is assisting Grover (Eli Gelb), who lied about his credentials to get the job. Over the four acts, Grover and Charlie are both a Greek chorus watching the band fall apart from behind the soundboard as well as the only people keeping the whole thing from completely running off the tracks.

Guitarist and singer Peter (Tom Pecinka) with his girlfriend and fellow singer Diana (Sarah Pidgeon)

Julieta Cervantes*

From Act I, there’s no hint of optimism about where the band is at. Holly has had enough of Reg’s late night whiskey and drug binges while Diana is desperate for Peter to show any hint of pride or respect for her. For Simon, it’s just starting to hit him that a couple months in the U.S. to work on their last album stretched out into three years, leaving behind a family he does quite miss. But at least they’re functioning just enough, leaning into their temporary life in Sausalito and churning out new songs each day that Peter meticulously rips apart, making them record then re-record until he’s satisfied.

The next three acts grow darker and more frayed as they begin to feel like they’re further and further from actually finishing the album. Holly and Reg break up, make up then finally fall apart. Reg gets sober-ish and moves in with someone else. Simon’s wife inevitably leaves him while Diana and Peter’s relationship is barely holding on, until Peter’s own self-involvement leads to a blow-up fight between the couple over everything they’ve ever done to each other. Keeping the show moving is Adjmi’s intimate, fast-paced dialogue. The conversations are hyper and riveting, even when they’re describing a movie scene or the technical queries that seem mundane. It’s like you’re watching a live documentary of the band in the studio, full of long, heavy nights and early, tense mornings.

A play like this is nothing without music to match. The fictional band has a lot to live up to and Arcade Fire’s Will Butler delivers exquisite songs that sound like they very well could have been hits during this era. And the actors themselves are playing the instruments live, conveying the type of technical genius that makes this type of dynamic all the more convincing.

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The Sausalito recording studio

Julieta Cervantes*

While uncanny valley Fleetwood Mac keep the story juicy all the way to their final act in Los Angeles, where the band is barely hanging on to an uncertain future together, it’s Gelb’s Grover that ultimately steals the show. He’s the first one on stage and the last one off, having gained confidence in the face of the band’s messy abuse of him throughout the show. It’s a star-making turn from Gelb, who plays the character with goofy affability that develops and mutates into a real hero by the end.

Stereophonic’s world is an immersive one, making it hard to leave behind at the end. Sure, it’s a treat for classic rock fans who have pored over hours of Behind the Music specials, Classic Albums docs and dueling band memoirs, but it’s also an instantly classic slice of storytelling about family, friendships, creativity and what’s a stake when you realize the chain between it all can actually be broken.



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