by Carole Di Tosti
The New York Musial Festival 2019, currently in its 16th season has been offering entertaining, seamlessly performed productions by talented casts and creatives. The comedy/farce Black Hole Wedding with lyrics by Katherine Brann Fredricks and music by Paul Nelson is a lively and rousing musical whose pace picks up as the conflict increases and the complications drive the characters to pursue their dreams and overthrow the wicked along the way.
The musical’s main thrust pits the dastardly climate denier Mr. Dean (Sean McDermott is comedic, dashing and evilly alluring as your favorite villain you love to despise) against a “green new deal” engineer, Raymond (Jonathan Miller), a science nerd who dresses for failure, but sports a gorgeous voice and willingness to fall in love. Summer (the winnable, lyrical voiced Mimi Robinson) is Mr. Dean’s stress therapist who smooths out his aches and infuses positive energy into his soul to distract him from his wicked intent to ignore destroying the planet. When she meets the naïve but brilliant Raymond, the recent golden-boy hire, they fall in love and the snidely whiplash-Dean attempts to come between them which stimulates the humor and grist of the production.
The debonair Mr. Dean is the CEO of a powerful global corporation specializing in the extraction, production and processing of unrenewable fossil fuels (“The Revenue Stream,” Hydrocarbon Techno-Titan”). At the outset he has schooled his underlings to recruit ingenious innovators with patents and prototypes. Dean buys the patents and eliminates his competition, insuring his energy monopoly will not be overthrown by sustainable energy sources and devices directed against his company’s mission to maintain profitability.
Mr. Dean hires Raymond, John Wayne (Connor Saccal) and another engineer because of their amazing green inventions, who believe they will be employing their energy and ingeniousness to good use for the corporation to save the planet from climate disaster. Instead, Mr. Dean usurps their patents, pays them a pittance and fires them, thus destroying any threat to his global empire but solidifying global warming and weather weirding catastrophes across the planet.
However, Mr. Dean doesn’t quite succeed in firing Raymond who tantalizes him with a device that would improve Mr. Dean’s golf game by guaranteeing that he always hits a “hole in one.” Hired, Raymond promotes another invention he has created, a mini black hole garbage disposal unit that sucks in whatever is thrown into its maw and disappears it into its gravitational, time-slowing darkness. Thrown together by circumstance, Summer and Raymond’s interest in each other grows and they sing the duet “Something Undreamed Of” and “Discovery.”
At this juncture, the production loses its sardonic power and experiences a lull in a not too smooth transition to another mood that is less striking. However, it regains its fervor with the upbeat “The Clock is Ticking” sung by Raymond and the Ensemble as he works to create the prototype he has promised Mr. Dean. The strongest moments of the production include songs like “Ancient & Honorable Game,” “No Means No,” “Tracking Song Sequence,” “Spin to Win,” “Black Hole Wedding” and “Potential Energy,” all of which are spot-on staged with dynamism and fun. The actors achieve their finest portrayals in the head-on collisions with each other. The ensemble is superb. And the concept of a “black hole device” is pure farce; the actor who engages it is funny. A caveat: the tone and irony could have been strengthened throughout and not only in the wonderful scenes with Mr. Dean on whose shoulders rests the power of the others to overcome his delicious horribleness.
The protagonists are stereotypic. The humor needs to be pumped up in the dialogue; there are potential one-liners for each of the “types.” Only Mr. Dean’s characterization is fully realized. Sean McDermott is exceptional in rendering all the villainous traits smugly, but with an underlying wisdom that makes him likeable and human.
The music, when it is upbeat and driving, succeeds in bringing the action and conflict to the fore. The love songs are less vibrant. The concept is vital and if the comedic farce can broadened, this show has great promise. The direction, staging and use of the sets by Craig J. George make the show flow seamlessly.
Kudos goes to the creative team and to Nevada Lozano (Music Director) and Shelly Hutchinson (Choreographer).
Photos: Shira Friedman Photography
The show part of the NYMF 2019 season runs with no intermission at the Alice Griffin Jewel Box Theatre with two shows left (19, 20 July). For tickets go to: http://www.nymf.org/festival/2019-events/black-hole-wedding