Sunday, August 30, 2015

Review: The Ultimate Papal Reality Show

When the Pope dies, the Cardinals of the world come together to vote for the next Pope. But what if the voting process was as ridiculous and scheme-worthy as an episode of “Survivor”? Filled with recurring gags, gender bending humor, and the wildest conglomeration of Cardinals you could possibly compile comes Adam Overett's knockout comedy Popesical. Six Cardinals storm the Sistine Chapel (no, this isn’t a set up for a joke) in order to vote for Pope after the sinister Cardinalissmo Francisco Franco strategically selects a bizarre group of candidates. Each Cardinal has a secret that Francisco plans to expose to ensure his papal rise. But bright eyed Cardinal McCafferty is here to save the day. Popesical employs a humor reminiscent of Mel Brooks. From cross-dressing to Jew jokes to over-the-top personalities and references, Overett keeps the jokes constantly flowing. But with shades of Mel Brooks, Overett strays away from borrowing that toe taping "Inquisition" number from "The History of the World, Part 1" after the reference. What Overett has done well is brought the cute and fun factor while crafting a stirring story with bright characters. Overett knows exactly the style this musical will strive in and never strays from it. This allows for consistency. His music, like his characters, are vibrant. He's filled the score with some major showstoppers, shinning in his comedic songs. His ballads though are a bit bland in comparison. They are melodic and easily forgettable in the scope of the complete score. The only ballad that breaks free is Bishop McCafferty's eleven o'clock number. The themes that Overett makes inherent in the script are what it means to be different and accepted. They are present yet don't feel trite. This allows you to laugh and hopefully feel by the end of the show. Overett and director Drew Geraci ran into one dramaturgical problem that stood out. Part of the joke of Cardinal Fouette is he cannot speak and dances to communicate. Yet in the group numbers, he sings. This diminishes the power for when he does open his mouth. It's no longer a novelty. See Norma in season one of "Orange is the New Black".
The cast of Popesical allowed the musical to rise up. Straight outta Mormon comes the aptly cast Stephen Christopher Anthony as Cardinal McCafferty. His sunny disposition was infectious. With a voice of gold, how could you not vote him Pope? When it came to stealing the show, two ladies managed to do it constantly. Firstly was Danette Holden as self-medicating, boozy belle Cardinal St. Louis. It's very likely you watched her after her show-stopping number early in the show. Holden has a knack for physical humor, bringing the perfect blend of sex appeal and crazy. As the inarticulate and lisp heavy Cardinalissimo Francisco Franco, Rachel Coloff proved her worth as one of the most underrated performers in musical theater. Coloff transcends musical comedy. She created a character and never once faltered or broke. It's a joy to watch someone transform and allow you to not notice the person within. As Cardinal Bergenstein, the odd Jew out, David Perlman was wonderful. He was sweet and goofy. Lucas Thompson as the dancing mute Cardinal Fouette showcased his dance skills, committing no matter the scenario, even if it meant accidently consuming part of the candy wrapper.
Director Drew Geraci kept the atmosphere light and upbeat, keeping the audience laughing in their seats. He kept the musical moving and on pace. And his choreography matched the style wonderfully, keeping it fun and exciting even on the tight stage. Costume designer DW had a very interesting task when clothing the Bishops: give them personality without being sacrilegious. DW succeeded.
Popesical has all the makings of a wonderful musical comedy. The only thing standing in its way is that other equally great Pope musical in town. Who will you vote for?