[Editor’s Note: In 2023 Crashlight’s creative team released a new, reivised version of the musical and full-lenth demos of all music are available at http://www.crashlightmusical.com.]
Crashlight is a musical that is so inept that the recurring age-old mental question while watching it is, “What were they thinking?” The King Lear-style eye gouging sequence in the second act pushes it into the realm of the totally ludicrous.
Writer and director Celeste Makoff has stated that her inspiration for the book of this fantasia is the political oppression by the North Korean regime. Instead of crafting a work dealing with that specific situation, Ms. Makoff has concocted a generally incoherent scenario with characters and situations out of The Hunger Games and the works of Ray Bradbury. Makoff’s direction is stolidly presentational.
To commemorate the 15th year of his reign, the hereditary evil dictator of a futuristic nation has commissioned a celebratory biographical opera. It’s to be performed live before an audience and broadcast on television.
He rules over a land where the lower classes are permitted only three minutes of light a day and where music is tightly controlled. “If you hear something. Say Something.” These allegorical plot points are murkily imparted.
To indicate this dark environment there’s a lot of imagery of three young women who are sisters, some of whom wear Little Red Riding Hood cloaks and carry lanterns around the house they live in. This was previously the residence of the opera composer. The plot thickens when the older sister who is a member of the resistance contacts him and she winds up as the lead in the opera. There is also intrigue as a covert maker of banned violins gets caught up in the machinations.
Drifting through the action are two female dancers, one in a white tutu and the other in a black one, who competently perform Kaitlyn Moise’s clunky choreography. There are other extraneous dance numbers that really have nothing to do with what is being presented.
Ms. Makoff’s undistinguished score aspires to the rousing bombast of Les Misérables and the steely wit of Evita. Trevor Bumgarner’s accomplished musical arrangements and orchestrations add a fleeting professional sheen to the show.
On a large television screen are shown the grainy projections created by Aaron Duffy and Kaitlyn Miller. These present the dictator’s wan, Orwellian speeches as well as lame public service announcements such as extolling the virtues of mushrooms.
Adam Crinson’s simple set design is inventive and evocatively depicts the various locales including a lighthouse for the finale. The sound design by Sean Kiely and Ian O’Loughlin proficiently adds aural scope. Shirlee Idzakovich’s costume design is a tatty collection of drab garments.
The youthful and earnest cast consists of Andy Dispensa, Rylee Doiron, Robert DiDomenico, Alexis Ebers, Rachel Ferretti, Lindsay Gitter, Ivy Idzakovich, Chandler James, Lynnsey Lewis, Marisa Roper, Caleb Schaaf, Cara Treacy and choreographer Moise. Their uniformly limited vocal abilities are problematic as this is a musical.
Crashlight has noble intentions but is theatrically negligible.
Crashlight (through September 11th, 2016)
Cherry Lane Theatre, 38 Commerce Street, in Manhattan
For tickets, call 866-811-4111 or visit http://www.cherrylanetheatre.org
Running time: two hours with one intermission