John Capo (producer of Showgirls! The Musical! and Bayside! The Musical!), author of the book and director of the show, assumes that the audience is well-versed in the tunes and lyrics of each song, as well as the musical genre of each singer. In-jokes relate to the juxtaposition of the disparate musical styles and lyrics that reference the artists’ lives and life choices. A song such as Didn’t We Almost Have It All, the hit single from Whitney Houston, being given a duet by Karen Carpenter and Kurt Cobain, comes across as absurd. Yet to many, incredibly funny — judging from the audience laughter.
Karen Carpenter singing her song, We Have Only Just Begun (to live), sitting on a stool in the afterlife takes the meaning of ill-fated to a whole new level. However, Karen Carpenter, Whitney Houston, Amy Winehouse and Kurt Cobain singing Karen and Richard Carpenter’s number one hit, Top of the World, brought the house down. The staging of whom sang what verse and when was priceless. And, Greg Schlotthauer’s musical direction is inspired.
However, segueing from isolated “I am very depressed and life is not worth living” scenarios to song, doesn’t tie the musical together effectively. Cobain writes a suicide letter. Winehouse deals with fame as an out-of-control drunk. Whitney Houston reminisces about being in a dysfunctional relationship with her daughter. Caprenter talks about breaking up with her abusive husband. Jackson is shown as having a tragic lonely, secluded life. With just a few revelatory backstory elements to depict each character, there is not a clear understanding of how these tragic figures intend or try to confront the problems that brought them together. There is little sense of how they go about trying to get peace in the afterlife.
The Lost Ones: A New Musical straddles the current ubiquitous genre of parody and jukebox musical — shows based on either cult films, TV shows, hit novels, or celebrities. Whether it be the Off-Broadway successes of Silence: The Musical, 50 Shades! The Musical!, or the Off-Broadway to the Broadway (and Tony-nominated) transfer of Disaster! — each of these comedic musicals, owe a great deal to Evil Dead: The Musical! for paving the way. In 2003, Sam Rami, writer/director of the horror film, Evil Dead, gave his blessing to use his movie to lampoon. Thus, Evil Dead: The Musical! avoided time-consuming and costly litigation, and allowed a dedicated sub-culture to take off on and play with this art form unencumbered with other homages.
Though meant to be moving, the musical ends up being humorous. When musical legends with completely different musical styles, decide to sing with one another and sing each other’s pop chart songs, this exchange tickles your fancy in ironic ways, instead of being deeply affecting. The focus is on the conceit and not on the story of “identity, loss, and the need to remember,” as the author of the book intended. The Lost Ones is one of the few musical tributes whose title doesn’t end with an exclamation point, which in and of itself is a reflection of the show’s conclusion. The Lost Ones: A New Musical does not punctuate any meaningful resolution for each musical icon in the afterlife.
The Lost Ones: A New Musical (July 1, 7, 15, 21 and 29, 2016) at 9:30 PM
The Duplex, 61 Christopher Street (at the corner of 7th Avenue), in Manhattan
For tickets, call 800-316-8559 or visit https://www.purplepass.com/index.php#143184
Running Time: 75 minutes without an intermission