Nikki Lynette’s autobiographical GET OUT ALIVE is a deeply vulnerable musical about her struggle with depression. This is one of the most incredibly personal pieces of theater I’ve seen; Lynette is truly no holds barred as she probes the intimate depths of her past trauma, triggers, and hospitalizations over the course of her battle with depression. She bills GET OUT ALIVE as a “celebration of life,” and the show is framed around the structure of a funeral (at least in the program). Directed by Roger Ellis and Lucky Stiff and featuring Jacinda Ratcliffe, Keeley Morris, and DJ Jason “P1” Lloyd in the ensemble, Lynette uses numerous elements to relay her story. GET OUT ALIVE incorporates vivid costumes (designed by Anna Wooden), a catwalk-style set from Eleanor Kahn, projections from Chris Owens and Lynette, and choreography by Morris and Ratcliffe. While the structure is fairly standard for a musical, weaving between dialogue and songs, the show makes ample use of projections, video clips, background vocals, and even visual art. Just as it seems that Lynette at times had to take radical approaches during her darkest depressive episodes, so too does the show take an “everything but the kitchen sink” approach to the storytelling.
Lynette is a capable vocalist with a powerful belt, and she’s given GET OUT ALIVE a palatable contemporary score that incorporates pop, rock, alternative, and hip hop. Unfortunately, the sound mixing for the production often drowned out Lynette’s vocals in the space, and, thus, I missed some of her lyrics. While Lynette’s passion for her material clearly came across as she bared some of her most intimate truths for the audience, the scenes and the songs felt disconnected. Although all the material is part of Lynette’s personal and searing life story, she didn’t quite figure out how to connect the dots between those two essential elements of the musical. As a result, GET OUT ALIVE, though it only runs 100 minutes, could still be edited down further.
Lynette is not afraid to share the vivid, traumatic details of her life with the audience, including her suicide attempt. While I don’t usually provide content warnings for any theater, the way Lynette recounts some of her past experiences is so raw and so detailed that it feels dangerous. I’m all for theater that presents audiences with the opportunity to become uncomfortable and ask questions, but Lynette pushes the limit. Ultimately, it’s clear that the process of writing and performing GET OUT ALIVE was an invigorating experience for Lynette. In this way, GET OUT ALIVE is a testament to theater’s power to heal. Performing the show is clearly a healing experience for Lynette, even if the show took me as an audience member to some dark, dangerous places. The show ends on a hopeful note, but I’m ultimately left thinking more about the dark, twisted elements of the show.
Haven Chicago’s GET OUT ALIVE plays The Den Theatre’s Janet Bookspan Theatre, 1331 North Milwaukee Avenue, through August 6, 2022. Regular run tickets are $35-$46 with $21 student tickets and $31 industry tickets available. Visit HavenChi.org for tickets.
Photo Credit: Michael Brosilow
Originally published on BroadwayWorld.com