So this bald guy wearing a flamboyant suit and chunky glasses comes out onto the stage. He starts talking; his voice is warm and strong, his eyes sparkling and bright, his expression inquisitive and searching. He begins to drop statements which sound scientific, then segues into the subjective, swerve to the philosophic, and shoot into the fantastic. Before you know it, his words break out into song, surrounded by a rich four-piece band, lights, dancers, and backup singers.
What is this thing, Emergence? A science lecture? A concert? A math class? A musical? A religious revival? A philosophy lesson? Who can say for sure, but there’s no sense trying to define it. Emergence simply does just that: emerges onto the ears, eyes, and minds of the audience, courtesy of creator and performer Patrick Olson and his host of excellent musicians, singers and dancers.
Olson might very well be the three-way love child of Thomas Dolby, Bill Irwin, and Max Headroom. He carries the show with an unbridled, infectious, childlike enthusiasm, sharing what he knows and loves–science and music–using songs he wrote in his car and lyrics that support his storytelling. He puts on this show like a life-long project that he couldn’t wait to find the barn for.
Olson reels us all in as he fills our minds with profundities in the same ease and flair he might have if he were telling us an evening of dad jokes. He shares postulates about time, space, color, light, thought, consciousness, love, and existence, in easy-to-grasp terms using purposeful words and with exquisite imagery.
Singers Miya Bass, Samara Brown, Cherry Davis, and Bella Kosal are more than just backup vocalists. Uniformly dressed in smart black, reminiscent of dancers in a Robert Palmer video, they support Olson with fantastic vocals, yet are each distinctly burgeoning talents in their own light. Uncredited choreography, both modern and balletic, is well-placed throughout the performance, and is expertly performed by strong, lithe, and impressive dancers Summer Sheldrick, Dana Liebezeit and Lavy Cavaliere.
The combination of lighting design and LED visual design provided by Wasted Potential, Jordan Noltner, Jonathon Corbiere, Tyler Sammy, Nick Proctor and FutureTalk Inc. is superb and dreamy, perfectly complementing all aspects of this production.
Emergence: Things Are Not As They Seem might defy categorization and challenge description; ultimately it is a living, breathing organism that both entertains and makes a person think, and deeply. Quirky, whimsical, profound, and mind-blowing, Emergence is not to be missed. Brilliant!
Emergence: Things Are Not As They Seem (through January 7, 2024)
The Alice Griffin Jewel Box Theatre at Pershing Square Signature Center, 480 W. 42nd Street, in Manhattan
For tickets visit https://emergenceshow.com/
Running time: one hour and 25 minutes without an intermission