Regional Reviews: Seattle
Uneasy Mix of Philosophy and Musical Comedy in Nietzsche! The Musical!
Also see David's review of Candide
What can I say about Nietzsche! The Musical!? Truly, I was at a loss for words exiting Unexpected Productions' venture to go beyond their popular, long-running Theatresports shows into fringe musical land. Those expecting wacky modern-era musical spoofery ala Bat Boy, Reefer Madness or Urinetown will sense that spirit alive and well in the able and always interesting direction of Kate Jaeger and a talented, ballsy cast. But librettist/lyricist Jeremy Richards and to some degree composer Robert Scherzer are stretching for something more serious and boundary bending, veering into Sunday in the Park With George territory. It ends up being neither, and feeling far longer than its two-hour (with a five-minute intermission) running time ought to.
The story of Friedrich Nietzsche's tumultuous, tragic and rather short life is interwoven with a contemporary tale about a disillusioned Jewish woman named Helen Cohen who teaches Nietzsche to her Sunday schoolers rather than the bible, while dealing with her own son Ben who has become a Jesus freak under the spell of a rather wild-eyed fellow named Kyle. At a certain point Helen crosses into Nietzsche's reality (or is it he crossing into hers?) and by then I was hopelessly lost, or numb or both.
Several of Scherzer's melodies, while not exactly hum your way out of the theatre ditties, are pleasant to the ear, but roughly half of Richards' lyrics are obscured by a bad balance between the the quintet of musicians and the singers. Justin Sund gives his Friedrich Nietzsche a spooky intensity throughout. There is strong work as well from Sarah Petty as the increasingly distraught Helen, Ryan McCabe as the confused Ben, Shana Pennington-Baird's chilling Elizabeth Nietzsche, and Evan Woltz's deliciously demented Kyle. Colleen Gillion's choreography has its inspired moments and utilizes the tight stage space creatively.
Nietzsche! The Musical! isn't by any lengths the worst musical I have ever seen in Seattle. But it certainly will linger in my mind as one of the most incomprehensible.
Nietzsche! The Musical! plays at the Market Theatre through June 12th. For tickets or information contact Brown Paper Tickets at 1-800-838-3006 or visit them online at www.brownpapertickets.com or www.unexpectedproductions.org.
See the list of this season's theatre offerings in the Seattle area.- David Edward Hughes