ONE - The Musical by Insight Out Theatre Collective
McCollum's ONE - The Musical is not an ego-trip. The show is an earnest, modern-day take on Siddhartha, and it is an earnest expression of McCollum's own beliefs and ideals. It has received a huge amount of local press and an exuberant response from opening audiences. My personal reaction to it was in part one of awe and admiration for McCollum and his collaborators having gotten the show to the level of production it is receiving, through corporate and individual donations. The other part of me, as an audience member unfamiliar with aspects of Buddhist and Hindu spirituality that are so at the heart of the show, was lost and confused with what I saw on stage.
McCollum plays a rising, spiritual pop musician named Sid Arthur who, along with best friend and musical collaborator Grover, is more concerned with making his own kind of music, attending peace rallies, and keeping the world a fit place to live. When Machiavellian talent and recording folks dangle the lure of stardom and big bucks in front of Sid as a solo act, he sells out his pal and goes for a ride on the fame taxi, only to ultimately reject it all in a nationally televised meltdown on a late-night talk show.
Co-directors Roger DeLaurier and Patricia M. Troxel keep the show moving well enough, but need to work with McCollum to find a solid climax to the first act, and ending to the show. Currently both acts seem to do a sort of to a slow fade to black, which is both curious and frustrating for an audience, no matter how supportive.
Though there are storyline elements that recall elements of everything from Hair to Godspell to Dreamgirls (not to mention the televised breakdown which recalls Merrily We Roll Along), the show's music by McCollum and Eric Nordin (also the production's musical director) is certainly not stock musical theatre stuff, nor is it mainstream pop music. In many instances, it is haunting and beautiful. I can't judge McCollum's lyrics fairly, for, as with many largely ensemble performed scores, the lyrics are very hard to understand, except for solo turns by the warm voiced McCollum himself and veteran musical theatre actress Susannah Mars (quite impressive as Sid's haughty Mother). Other featured performances that stand out are Julian Jaffe's fearless and bold turn as Fatima, Holcombe Waller's sweetly benign characterization and vibrant vocals as Grover, and Andy Lindberg as a trippy Taxi driver. The rest of the 18 member ensemble is tremendously cohesive executing Brynn Harris' often electric choreography.
The show is being performed in a really interesting newly redone Portland theatre space known as The Wonder Ballroom, and certain acoustical issues aside, its quirkiness suits the show well. All other technical elements are in impressive shape, given the demands of such a theatrical spectacle. The show's impressive orchestra featurs internationally known band Brothers of the Balladi, with Portland musician Ben Landsverk on keyboards and viola.
Having enjoyed a few moments to chat with Wade McCollum after the performance, I found him eminently likable and devoted to his show, and to the cause of theatre artists receiving the pay they deserve. I wouldn't be at all surprised to see one of this talented gentleman's efforts reach the Broadway stage (a stated goal for this show), but I would be surprised to see ONE - The Musical get there unless Wade is willing to sell out the same kind of core beliefs that Sid Arthur does in the show.
ONE - The Musical runs through October 1 at The Wonder Ballroom, 128 NE Russell, Portland, OR. Reserved tickets are available through Ticketmaster 503.224.4400 or www.ticketmaster.com. For more information go on-line at www.insightouttheatre.org.