Sunday, August 17, 2014

Review: The Coming of the New JC

Every once in a while there comes a show that is so outrageous it actually works. At least for the most part. One of those pieces is the new glam rock musical Coming, the bastard love child of The Rocky Horror Show and Jesus Christ Superstar. Written by Erik Ransom, most likely as a star vehicle for himself, Coming tells the tale of the second coming of Christ in the form of a beautiful blonde haired, blue eyed teenager from Bethlehem, PA.
With a musical style that deserves to be explored further on stage, Coming tells the tale of Josh Crensha, sharing the not so subtle initials with a certain someone, as he discovers his true calling: being a pop star. Oh and being the second coming of Jesus Christ. To thwart his journey, the son of the devil, Damian Salt, a glam rocker himself, makes it his mission to prevent God’s plan after a group of homophobes kill his one true love. Salt discovers a way to get America to turn on their newfound favorite son and seduce him in the process. What Coming does well is it knows exactly what it is and owns it. Ransom maintains the campy, queer nature of the musical throughout allowing for the dramatic to be strong. The jokes Ransom sprinkles in the script are head shakingly funny. At times he goes with the obvious which makes it even funnier. The score Ransom creates lives beautifully in the landscape he has imagined. But there are times, especially during American Icon, that he suffers from "Smash" Syndrome. "Smash” Syndrome is when the characters of the play comment on the amazing nature of a song or performance but what the audience actually sees and hears is really not as good. This happens quite often, especially in regards to Damian’s performances. Overall Act II could use some cleaning up as, like many musicals, Act I is much stronger.
The entire ensemble has such conviction in their performance. The shining star of the show is Glen North as Josh. North is a quadruple threat showcasing the obvious three threats and the fourth...his body, as director Rachel Klein clearly has no qualms asking her ensemble to show some skin. Coming was a wonderful "coming" out performance, pun intended, for the rising star. Counter Simmons was absolutely magnificent in his various parts. Simmons has a flawless voice, even rocking the angel wings and high heels as Israfil. Likewise, Ashanti J'aria was brilliant in her many comedic bits with a near spot-on parody of "American Idol" judge Jennifer Lopez. Erik Ransom as Damien Salt brought soul to the devil. For someone who wrote a part for himself, his vocals were by no means perfect but his comedy was. Salt did have a song or two too many. When Coming finds a bigger home, courting a real glam rock icon like Adam Lambert to play Damien will make Ransom's score soar.
Director Rachel Klein did nice work creating this fabulous world. Klein, who's costumes appeared recycled, brought a spark to Coming. However, her use of the furniture, especially in transitions, was distracting. Rather than eliminating pieces to the wings, Klein asked her company to push them to the back of the stage, leaving them in complete view of the scene. The lighting design by Zephan Ellenbogen was colorful and transformative.
There will be a second coming of Coming. The musical is bound to be a cult classic. With a fly-less venue and the ability to glamorize technically, Coming will gain a new following.