Saturday, August 20, 2016

Review: It's the End of the World As We Know It

By Michael Block

There is family friendly musical theater and then there is Tribulation: the Musical. Written by Molly Miller and Brad Kemp, the end of times is here and Genevieve and her pals must find a way to stop the prince of darkness. This religious satire is a smart comedy that doesn't take itself too seriously. Set in the very near future of 2021, happiness goes away as tribulation has arrived. Recent Harvard grad Genevieve now finds herself selling ironic life insurance for a company now run by a devilish man named Dameon Goodman. When Genevieve gets an offer to attend her dream school, named after Sylvia Plath, she ditches her friends and sell their souls into slavery. But when she meets Jesus Christ himself, it's possible the world can be saved! Tribulation is brazenly outrageous, unafraid to offend. The story isn't exactly unique or fleshed out, opting for the absurdity of the situation. The adult humor doesn't quite reach The Book of Mormon proportions but it sure can! If offending the crowd is already on the docket, you might as well pull out all the stops. Crude humor is welcome! Finding a way to bring out the unpredictability will be in Miller's best interest. That may mean some plot restructuring. But the comedic foundation is present. The music from Kemp is that sugary Broadway pop. It sticks in your head for the moment but doesn't quite last when the show concludes. Except that one song that seems to borrow a melody line from Kelly Clarkson's "Since U Been Gone."
photo by Oopey Mason
There seemed to be a certain style of comedy coming from this ensemble. They all seemed fond of the pregnant pause before a punchline. Regardless, the standout of the show happened to be the lead Sarah Hoffman. As Genevieve, Hoffman was a genuine star. She has a sweet demeanor with a voice to match. There were no surprises when it came to the identity of Nick Shine's Dameon. Shine had a dark side but it was his humor that saved him. As Lilly and Nathan, the duo of Erin Rein and Seth Wanta played well off of one another. Playing the innocent card, Wanta was a softy. Rein had some of the greatest lines as the sex-crazed Lilly, nailing each and every one.
In a festival setting, less is more. Tyler Samples directed with that theory in mind. Samples highlighted the comedy of Miller's script. The choreography from Lauren Lopez was showy, playing into a parody of Broadway dance moves.
Where does Tribulation go from here? Molly Miller and Brad Kemp's show is one that works well for comedy outlets. As a full-fledged stage musical? It's a harder sell. But there is potential deep within.