By Joel Benjamin
Steven Fales, looked as if he just stepped out of the musical American Psycho: slender, handsome, beautifully dressed and impeccably turned out. Fales, put together an evening of famous songs, re-written with his own—often witty/often puzzling—lyrics to shoehorn them into his Cult Model theme, a show about how cults in every form have invaded our modern life. He suggested a cult scale from 0 – 6, in which the Episcopal Church is a 2, the Mormons a 4, Scientology a 5 and ISIS a 7! He even made a good point that our society’s total immersion in commercialism—he lists a number of name brand products—is, in itself, a cult in which big business entraps ups: “Cult of Personality”/”Cult Rap.”
As a Mormon from California, Fales is well-acquainted with cultish organizations. His opening song, “I Form the Cults” (“I Write the Songs” – Johnston) introduced the theme which continued with “I’d Like to Buy the World a Cult,” based on the famous Coca Cola musical theme.
Because his homosexuality clashed with his Mormon upbringing, he left: “The Excommunication Polka” (to the tune of “Roll Out the Barrel”). In his teen years he discovered that his attractiveness could lead to a living as a hustler, however dark and tawdry the experiences became. “Private Dancer,” the Tina Turner hit was his meditation on being used by many men.
After all the songs, he had to conclude that cults were here to stay, using his version of “History Repeating” (Gifford). His finale was “The Cult that Got Away” (based on the Arlen/Gershwin classic, “The Man that Got Away”).
Cult Model was clearly an anti-cult exercise, but was so self-indulgent that it was difficult to appreciate the message or Fales obvious talents which include a decent singing voice. He showed some acting chops in three monologues with songs: Mormon Jew, Heavenly Mother and Surfer Porn Dude, but in the end was straining to keep the audience involved. Surely Steven Fales could put together another program without all the silly sociological frills, a program that would feature this good looking man just singing and being charming.
Bryan Sommers, at the piano, provided fine musical support.
Cult Model (September 11, 2016)
34 West 22nd Street, between 5th & 6th Avenues
New York, NY
For tickets, call 212-206-0440 or visit www.metropolitanroom.com