Monday, August 31, 2015

Review: The Singing Vengeful Nun

Succeeding in creating “quality” shock value is hard. When you shock, you need purpose. There needs to be a reason behind it not just do it to get people to talk. In Kill Sister Kill, there is shock and awe with dark undertones that doesn’t quite match the style. With concept and book by Drac and Jamieson Child, lyrics by David Backshell, and music by Michael Zahorak, Kill Sister Kill doesn’t know quite exactly what it is. The super dark musical follows the seedy undergrounds of New York where scum and drugs roam the street. When Dagger, a man with severe rage and emotional issues gets a taste of his own medicine, he turns into a cold blooded killer, brutally raping and killing the sister of a sister, a nun that is. Sister Lily goes on a rampage of vengeance to avenge her sister’s untimely murder. The musical is dark. That being said, director Jamieson Child and his team take an occasional comedic approach to it. Kill Sister Kill desperately wants to be like The Toxic Avenger. The theme is dark but the style is comedic and fits the rock score. While they may need to find another reason for Lily to seek revenge, everything else within this story has comedic elements to it. If this was not their goal, then Jamieson Child directed his company in the completely wrong direction as the entire ensemble played with elements of camp. The other drastic problem with the musical is the creators don’t know who the story is about. With the title alone, the story is about the nun. But in its current shape, its more about Dagger and his brother Ronnie and then maybe Lily and her sister Kitty. By keying in solely on Lily, the Kill Sister Kill team may have a stronger arc to follow. But this means there needs to be a severe restructure of the book. The event that sets Lily on her path must occur in the first scene following the opening number. From there, snippets of what is currently in the book can remain to show who Dagger as the hero and villain battle is between Lily and Kitty. The focus on Kitty and Ronnie would diminish but they could allow Ronnie to be a sympathetic character who was just in the wrong place in the wrong time who helps Lily on her journey. All while keeping the dark comedy style that is present. Kill Sister Kill in its current form is just not working.
The ensemble of Kill Sister Kill is mediocre at best. They were just as lost as the story. As Lily, Samantha Walkes had great conviction. With a bit of an operatic tone to her voice, her upper registers didn’t quite fit into the score but her lower range sure did. Thomas Finn as Ronnie brought a bit of a Buble vibrato to the stage. Finn has a jazzy tonality to his voice that also felt oddly placed in the score. He was a good foil for Dagger, but Ronnie didn’t quite have an arc to care about. Aaron Williams as Dagger has true grit in his singing voice. That’s where he shined. But playing the bad guy made him look like a reject Disney villain. It was odd.
With such closeness to the material, Jamieson Child’s direction held the production back. There was little purpose to his choices and you had to question his vision when you had super campy moments including an up close and personal dismemberment juxtaposed to a brutal up close and personal assault. Drac Child served as the production designer fulfilling the seediness of the world. But the neon style cross and bar name just looked sad. John Fleming served as the dialect coach and went for stereotypical New York rather than authentic. Though it may be due to Williams and Finn’s inability to grasp it, the dialects are another reason why the musical felt as if it wanted to be campy.
Kill Sister Kill would benefit from a script doctor, a separate director, and some time. The story about a crime fighting vengeful nun is captivating. But that’s not what story this production currently tells.