Also see Kevin's review of Halpern & Johnson
It is always difficult to gauge new work. On one hand, the material may be powerful, engaging, and needing to be expressed to the masses. By another thought, new work may need to go back to the drawing board, never to be seen again. Terry Hammondís new musical, Cruise Control, unfortunately lies with the latter in most aspects.
Presented through Hammond's own production outfit, Theatrix, Cruise Control takes us through a blunt and sometimes sentimental musical journey of 120 years of gay culture. The road is bumpy at best, no thanks to the performers that director Jerry Campbell has chosen. Even though most of the six men are good singers, as an ensemble they come off as an insulting, ridiculous knockoff of the Village People.
Enclosed in a small auditorium, Hammondís musical direction is contained by canned music which ironically seems right for this type of material. The sextet ( ... and believe me, SEX has an emphasis here) bump, grind and flirt with each other in numbers like "If You Canít Take the Heat (Get Out of the Kitchen)," "Ballad of a Fluffer," and "The Bare-Assed Kick Line." The theme of going commando rears its ugly head (no pun intended) in songs like "Hangin' Out" and "The Showers and the Growers." Standout songs like "The Moons Around Uranus" and "Hot Hot Hot" give a chuckle while "Still Going Strong" is the most tender selection of the night.
Tear through the jungle that is William Starnesí unimpressive choreography and Chuck Gilletteís design representing what a clash between Ziegfeld and a Will Rogers Follies set would look like, and we see that the real standout star is not on stage at all. Terry Hammondís contribution overshadows everyone in the ensemble so much that their presence seems like an afterthought.
Clocking in at under 90 minutes, and without an intermission, Cruise Control would make a fine midnight cabaret act. Other than that, mainstream theatre audiences might force Cruise Control into oblivion.
Cruise Control will play through April 18th at the Art Serve Auditorium, 1350 E. Sunrise Blvd. in Fort Lauderdale. For more information, please call (954) 695-8288.
Cruise Control - Theatrix
Cast: Jeffrey Bower, Ross Carson, W. Jay Herring
Musical Direction: Terry Hammond
Set Design: Chuck Gillette
Directed by Jerry Campbell
-- Kevin Johnson