Regional Reviews: Florida - Southern
The Broward Center for the Performing Arts recently presented the world premiere of the rock musical The 12 featuring an original score by Neil Berg, and a book and additional lyrics Robert Schenkkan. Composer Neil Berg is best known as the creator of 100 Years of Broadway. Robert Schenkkan is the author of ten full-length plays, including The Kentucky Cycle for which he won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1992. The timing of this production of their collaboration just a few days before Easter was well placed, as The 12 attempts to take up the story of the twelve apostles where Jesus Christ Superstar has left off. It is the musical tale of twelve ordinary individuals torn apart by the unthinkable death of their leader, who come together to create one of the most powerful movements ever known to mankind.
At the beginning of the show the characters of The 12 poured onto the stage as members of a rock band called "The 12." There, in an abandoned warehouse, they are about to perform their lead singer's new musical creation in front of an audience for the first time. The performance was much more of a rock concert than a theatrical production. The dialogue was scant, and delivered without much acting. The progression of songs were mini emotional moments without any plot development. The stage setting and costuming were those of an ordinary rock concert, but the instrumentalist were top notch.
Singers not playing a musical instrument used hand held microphones. While all were talented and passionate, their volume seldom varied from a fully rocked-out double forte (very loud), and became cumbersome. It was too much about big, high notes and not about musicality or the weight of the lyrics. Their hand held microphones also became crutches which prevented them from acting more freely. Singers frequently stood in profile with their downstage hand holding up their microphones, blocking their own faces, so facial expressions were hard to catch. The production was plagued with sound issues, as countless times microphones did not work and were handed off, and/or the audience was treated to offstage microphone checks in the middle of songs.
Some fine rock singing moments were found in The 12, backed by outstanding former Anthrax guitarist, Dan Spitz, who played guitar as Phillip. Lawrence Clayton (Simon) had the most control of his singing instrument. He was the clearest in his use of dynamics and acting choices, and seemed the most seasoned on stage. Sophia Ramos as Mary Magdalene sang with a huge and tireless voice. In songs like "What If" she demonstrated the sound of a promising solo artist. Elaine Caswell as Mother Mary brought a welcome break to the shear volume of the show with her soulful jazz sound in the song "Rain." The rest of the performances, however skillful, came off as but a competitive jam session. As the show came to an end, it was hard to feel the worthy message at the root of the story of The 12, as mostly what we felt was just our ears still ringing.
The 12 appeared on April 1, 2010 at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts. The Broward Center for the Performing Arts is located in the Riverwalk Arts & Entertainment District at 201 SW Fifth Avenue in Fort Lauderdale, FL.Presentations at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts are sponsored in part by the State of Florida, Department of State, Division of Cultural Affairs, the Florida Arts Council, and the National Endowment for the Arts. Support is also contributed by the Broward Performing Arts Foundation, Inc. The Riverwalk Arts & Entertainment Consortium is a cultural partnership between the Performing Arts Center Authority, Museum of Art | Fort Lauderdale, Florida Grand Opera., Fort Lauderdale Historical Society and The Historic Stranahan House Museum. It is supported by the Broward County Board of County Commissioners as recommended by the Broward Cultural Council and the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention Visitors Bureau. For tickets and/or information on the many diverse offering of the Broward Center for the Performing Arts you may contact them by phone at 954-462-0222 or online at www.browardcenter.org.