With one foot astride the world of glam rock and the other firmly entrenched in the most formulaic of musical-theater clichés (boy meets android, boy loses android, boy finds … well, you get the picture), local theater impresario Tod Kimbro has launched his most ambitious stage extravaganza yet: the science-fiction rock-musical My Illustrious Wasteland, for which he wrote the book, music and lyrics.
As if penning the opus weren’t enough, the multitalented Kimbro also plays the starring role: United States President Reverend, M.D., the cynical leader of our country years in the future, wherein the citizens are “given what they want – good programming, good pharmaceuticals and good gaming.” In addition, CPUs are implanted in folks’ brains to keep their behavior monitored and their drug habits attended to – “the very essence of democracy,” according to actor Kimbro’s PRMD.
Directed by the masterful John DiDonna and sporting a large onstage (and onscreen) cast, this polished and engaging musical is having a limited run at Lowndes Shakespeare Center, with hopes that an auspicious debut there will lead to expanded productions elsewhere. And although playwright Kimbro’s thin plotline is sometimes hard to follow, the production shines each time it presents one of composer Kimbro’s 17 songs, some of which have been reworked from his Soundtrack to a Chemical Spill CD, but all of which combine genuine musical depth with canny, show-stopping kick.
Collaborating in this fine theatrical effort is choreographer Blue, whose dance numbers veer from sharply robotic to abstractly lyrical; designer Babbette Garber, whose inventive costumes portend a future of cheap and tasteless accoutrements; a crackerjack sound and lighting crew; and the prodigious vocal talent of the cast members, who have latched onto Kimbro’s soaring harmonies and taken them in a marvelously pleasing direction.
The show is filled with vaudevillian silliness; many of its routines are derivative of other Broadway-type musicals. Still, social critic Kimbro seems to take pleasure in scrounging the well-worn motifs while throwing in darker musings about our current drift toward a new fall of Rome and the absurdities leading us there: “We voted online for online voting and online voting won.”
In the end, though, it’s singer Kimbro who captures our imagination most fully. His glorious rendition of the song “Pushover” is both the high point of the proceedings and the best chance that this summer diversion may yet see the light of additional firstname.lastname@example.org
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