Authenticity: The Musical, The Promise of Potential Not Present

By Ernest Kearney — There are three types of shows I am always in hopes of finding, which keeps me returning, year after year, to the Hollywood Fringe Festival.

  1. The exceptional
  2. The fascinating
  3. The promising

John Cassidy and Michael Vanbodegom-Smith’s Authenticity: The Musical unquestionably falls into the third category.

Intended to play before high school audiences as a means of combating cyber bullying and the practice of “catfishing”; wherein someone creates a false online identity with the intention of humiliating or collecting personal details from another person.

Set in a high school where cell phones seem to have evolved into another appendage of the student body, Hudson (Norman Thatch) is the outcast who longs for interaction with others that exceeds the 160 characters of a text message.

This unforgivable social faux pas of wanting to look someone in the face when communicating leads to Hudson’s rejection by everyone from the formulaic “mean girl” to his possible romantic interest Simon (Jeffrey Delfin).

Aurora (Erika Cruz) a classmate and mean girl trainee begins catfishing Hudson under her sympathetic and nonjudgmental cell phone alter ego “Terri.” But Aurora slowly falls victim to the pitfall, which served as a constant theme in Kurt Vonnegut’s novels: “You are who you pretend to be.”

What Cassidy and Vanbodegom-Smith have placed on stage is an intriguing reversal of Edmond Rostand’s Cyrano de Bergerac that counters the rather deplorable theme of the musical Grease.

But as it is now, Authenticity: The Musical is lacking some major elements, with clarity being one.

The relationship between Hudson and Simon was unclear to me. Perhaps it was the author’s intention to have it unclear to the two of them. If this was the case, well then, that intention was unclear.

Hudson is always carrying a cage with a stuffed rabbit inside.

Here my confusion was, whether the “rabbit” was an actual member of the family Leporidae or if it was an affectation along the lines of Lord Sebastian Flyte in Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisted.

There were other issues left too vague for my taste, though I am hard-pressed to say how much of that can be faulted to the cast; the majority of whom are simply not able to meet the needs of this show.

Giancarlo Garritano as the professor trying to show his students the dangers of experiencing life through an iPhone filter is the one exception who displays chops in both acting and singing.

Cruz has a lovely set of pipes but comes across as acting-lite, much as others in the cast, and as far as I could discern only one performer had any “pop,” the essential element for musical comedy and she was the least used member of the ensemble.

But if Authenticity: The Musical lacks clarification and a capable cast, what it doesn’t lack is a bounty of promise.

John Cassidy’s script, while in need of work, is strong and scattered with insights. The score by Michael Vanbodegom-Smith (with contributions by Garritano and Jimena Ochoa), is impressive in addressing the crucial demands of any musical. The lyrics are emotionally intelligent, and Cruz is at her best when singing lines like “It seems like fairy tales are lonely rides down empty trails.”

The show is bursting with well structured toe-tapping tunes, but far more importantly the score possesses hills and valleys and even offers some buttes and gullies. I have suffered through some Broadway musicals in which the composer filled two entire acts with the exact same song. This score provides an enticing variation guaranteed to prick-up the ears of any audience.

Silver Medal (via The TVolution)

Not to be left unmentioned, choreographers Avery Potemri and Melaney Garcia also served the production well.

So while I found fault with this production, (it being, only, half a show with no pay-off,) for the promise the creators showed in this undertaking a SILVER MEDAL.

(NOTE: But I’ll be coming to take it back if they don’t live up to that promise.)


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Authenticity: The Musical

played the 2021 Hollywood Fringe Festival.

For Updates on the show its players Go To:

Learn More at

Written by

An award-winning L.A. playwright and rabble-rouser of note who has hoisted glasses with Orson Welles, been arrested on three continents and once beat up Charlie Manson. His first play, "Among the Vipers" was a semi-finalist in the Julie Harris Playwriting Competition and was featured in the Carnegie-Mellon Showcase of New Plays. It was produced at the NPT Theater in Ashland, Oregon and Los Angeles’ celebrated Odyssey Ensemble Theatre. His following play, “The Little Boy Who Loved Monsters” was produced at The Hollywood Actors Theater, where he earned praise from the Los Angeles Times for his “…inordinately creative writing.” The play went on to numerous other productions including Berlin’s The Black Theatre under the direction of Rainer Fassbinder who wrote in his program notes of Kearney, “He is a skilled playwright, but more importantly he is a dangerous one.” Ernest Kearney has worked as literary manager or as dramaturge for among others The Hudson Theater Guild, Nova Diem and the Odyssey Ensemble Theatre, where he still serves on the play selection committee. He has been the recipient of two Dramalogue Awards and a finalist or semi-finalist, three times, in the Julie Harris Playwriting Competition. His work has been performed by Michael Dunn, Sandra Tsing Loh, Jack Colvin and Billy Bob Thornton, and to date, either as playwright or director, he has upwards of a hundred and thirty productions under his belt, including a few at the Bob Baker Marionette Theater as puppeteer. Kearney remains focused on his writing, as well as living happily ever after with his lovely wife Marlene. His stage reviews and social essays can be found at and Follow him on Facebook.

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