If, like me, you’re not familiar with the music of the prolific pop songwriter and producer Adam Schlesinger, then Adirondack Theatre Festival’s current show, “Traffic and Weather,” is a wonderful introduction.
If, like the guy who was sitting in front of me at the show last week, you are already a big fan, then the show brings his music to life in a visceral way.
“Traffic and Weather” is a concert show, presenting songs from the album of the same name, put out in 2007 by the band “Fountains of Wayne,” which featured Schlesinger on bass.
The songs are played by a four-person band ranged across the back of the stage. In front of them, the cast sings, dances and acts out the stories told in Schlesinger’s clever, literate lyrics.
It’s a marvelous burst of energetic music-making and dancing, with some pop poetry thrown in to engage your mind a bit, too. At about an hour long, the show ends before any of the songs’ varied moods repeat themselves. It leaves you perfectly satisfied, if not full with the pleasures of live entertainment.
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Schlesinger’s mastery of pop music comes across in the effortless transitions from a wistful love song like “I-95” to a rocker like “Traffic and Weather” to a tongue-in-cheek ditty like “Planet of Weed.” All of the songs are catchy and upbeat and, often, slyly sophisticated both in their construction and message.
“Planet of Weed,” for example, uses the classic rhyme scheme A-A-B-A, also found in Edward Fitzgerald’s 19th century translation of ancient Persian quatrains he called “The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam.” Perhaps not coincidentally, “The Rubaiyat” has a similar theme of enjoying the moment, especially with the help of wine, as “Planet of Weed.”
Schlesinger died last year from COVID-19. Martha Banta, the festival’s interim producing artistic director (and a co-founder of the festival), knew him in New York and had been working with him on a show that would feature his music.
Banta has worked as a director of the long-running Broadway show “Mamma Mia,” and the original idea was to structure a plot, including dialogue, around a collection of Schlesinger’s songs, as with Abba’s songs in “Mamma Mia.” But the dialogue was dropped and, instead, the show is a collection of musical short stories, like MTV used to be but smarter.
The ensemble cast does a great job with the singing and dancing, keeping up a breakneck pace, with no pauses between numbers. It’s a short show, but it packs a lot of entertainment into an hour.
Will Doolittle is projects editor at The Post-Star. He may be reached at email@example.com and followed on his blog, I think not, and on Twitter at