Jon Peter Lewis was a third season finalist on American Idol and later appeared on the fourth season of The Voice with Ryan Hayes as the duo Midas Whale. With Garrett Sherwood, they collaborated on this show’s book and score. The music is a credible sounding rock amalgam of the likes of Queen, Led Zeppelin and Aerosmith, with Roxy Music flourishes. The lyrics are skillfully complementary. The book is more of an original scenario since there is no dialogue as the show is sung through.
Set in the past in “The Rural Countryside,” the excellent musicians led by music director and arranger Ben Mathews are dressed in all black and wear skull masks and are visible throughout. The ever-present backdrop is a fantastic Tim Burton-style miniature collage of trees, lampposts, old houses and a graveyard that is imaginatively lit in hues of orange and blue by lighting designer Braden Howard. On stage is a richly detailed gated door of a tomb. The dazzling scenic elements are all the great work of set designer David Goldstein.
Hovering over the life of the lovely Constance is her deceased great love Old Bones. He is a skull-faced figure in funereal clothing that communicates with her. Handsome, blond Friedrich appears in town and begins a romance with Constance. The voluptuous and fiery Florence is jealous, and catastrophic complications occur among this quartet. Darting in and out of the action is a company of dancing ghosts and there are flashbacks to the young dancing Old Bones and Constance. Like on reality television singing contests, the style here is heavy on belting and vocal pyrotechnics.
Mr. Lewis appears as Old Bones exhibiting great presence despite the elaborate makeup and has a commanding voice. With curly long blond hair, a raspy voice and a rock star charisma in the vein of Steven Tyler, Mr. Sherwood is very fitting as Friedrich. Melanie Stone is wonderfully sweet and stalwart as Constance. Emitting old-time villainous Hollywood glamor Amy Whitcomb robustly scores as the meddlesome Florence.
Pia Hamilton, Nicole Adjeleian, Sarah Danelle Roberts, Adam DiLoreto, and Matthew Ortner are the very talented dancers who all make an impact as the silent company of ghosts who weave in and out of the proceedings. The choreography by Ray Mercer is simplistic and rudimentary and lacks grandeur to truly be successful.
Costume designer Bree Perry’s outfits are an inspired collection of Victorian type gowns, suits, and appropriately gauzy creations for the ghosts. Ariel LaFontaine’s makeup design is expertly in evidence for the finely realized ghosts.
The direction by Michael Rader and Mr. Lewis is often stilted and doesn’t really visually or narratively shape the material into the compelling lush spectacle that the show aspires to be.
Billed as “A Ghostly Rock Opera,” Deep Love has a number of accomplished elements but at present its presentational flaws outweigh those.
Deep Love (July 17 – 24, 2015)
The 2015 New York Musical Theatre Festival
The Alice Griffin Jewel Box Theatre at The Pershing Square Signature Center, 480 West 42nd Street, in Manhattan
For tickets, call 212-352-3101 or visit http://www.nymf.org
Running time: two hours including one intermission