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‘Next Stop’ worth the trip

Adrian Aguilar (left) Blair Robertsperform “Next Stop” by Route 66 Theatre Company.

Adrian Aguilar (left) and Blair Robertson perform in “Next Stop” by Route 66 Theatre Company.

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When: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday-Wednesday

Where: Route 66 Theatre at Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont

Tickets: $25

Info: (773) 975-8150 or

Updated: July 24, 2012 9:45AM

Musicals are “born” in many different ways. “Next Stop,” now in its first outing with a production by Route 66 Theatre Company that is halfway between a workshop and a final product, began when six local writers were asked to devise 10-minute plays.

The idea was that these scenarios could be paired with existing songs or new, script-inspired songs by Diana Lawrence, the young, multi-talented musician who plays piano and drums for the show, contributes plenty of zesty vocal backup, and easily calls to mind that better-known singer-songwriter, Regina Spektor.

The result is more of an engaging song cycle than a full-fledged musical, with the six scenarios — all but one played out near a Chicago L stop — of varying quality. But when these little song-scenes are good, they are very, very good, and when they are just OK, well, there’s always the next stop in this 70-minute show that runs along the express route.

Things are set in motion with Ike Holter’s little drama that plays out like a good Megabus trip away from Chicago. Two former high school classmates — the most and the least likely to succeed (Harmony France and Zach Kenney respectively) — meet at the bus station diner where she works as a waitress, and where he is about to head off to Chicago. Clearly they are not at all suited to each other, but he impulsively invites her to come with him. Their choices say a lot about who they are.

Alice Austen’s “Blue Eyes” unfolds near the Lincoln Park Zoo, as a man (Geoff Rice), still in mourning for someone he loved, confides his ongoing anguish to a pal. Things remain quite opaque until the very end, when we suddenly learn about the legacy of that lost love.

Lawrence’s most completely beguiling song for the show, “The Boy in the Thrift Shop Sweater” (which should become an instant YouTube hit), comes with a playlet by Brett Neveu that zeroes in on the Logan Square neighborhood. It is there that a nerdy guy with a guitar, and butterfly potential (the wonderful Adrian Aguilar, who just starred in Porchlight Music Theatre’s “tick, tick...Boom!”) is eagerly pursued and chided by a sassy girl (Blair Robertson).

The hypocrisy and chicanery of a political candidate is the fodder for Aaron Carter’s Loop area tale in which a conservative candidate is more or less outed and blackmailed by his liberal gay lover.

In Alex Lubischer’s “Someday,” it is an elegiac song performed by former college lovers (Emjoy Gavino and Kenney) at the memorial service for a much-admired music teacher that serves as the balm for their lingering resentments.

The show (directed by Erica Weiss on the set of another theater’s production) ends with a wedding of sorts in Caitlin Montanye Parrish’s “Mouths of Babes.” Is this the faux-innocent tale of a lesbian marriage? Or is it simply a look at two adorable preteen girls (Gavino and Robertson) playing out their fantasies with each other before they are old enough to do it with boys? You decide.

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