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The Eleventh Hour!

A black hole is hurtling toward NJ in this wacky rock musical that has Neil deGrasse Tyson played by a woman and actors playing moles and a snake.

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Henry Fisher and Miranda Luze in a scene from “The Eleventh Hour!” (Photo credit: Zack Morrison)

Darryl Reilly

Darryl Reilly, Critic

Neil deGrasse Tyson (played by a woman) has to save the day as a black hole  is hurtling toward New Brunswick, New Jersey in the wacky rock musical The Eleventh Hour! It’s a loud, semi-incomprehensible and sporadically engaging 100-minutes that’s performed with youthful spirit.

Nevin Denham is a morose N.J. basement band guitarist whose estranged up and coming astrophysicist girlfriend Amy Leonardo moves to New York City to be an intern for Mr. Tyson at the Hayden Planetarium. After the news of the impending disaster is broadcast on television they realize they still have strong feelings for each other and they set out on odysseys to reconnect. Along the way there are apocalyptic vignettes with homeless marauders, moles and a snake.

David Seamon’s book is a well-constructed compendium of sci-fi clichés that’s mostly sung through with his gritty and witty authentic rock score for which he wrote the music and lyrics for. There are pulsing Andrew Lloyd Webber tones amidst the chords of grunge.

It must be assumed that the show’s creative forces sanctioned Dustin Ballard’s amped-up sound design that drowns out words, jokes and nuance. Lighting designer Zachary M. Brienza achieves a fantastical dimension with its murkiness and bright flashes. There are muddy projections as well that add atmosphere.

Brianne Wylie and Christopher Pasi in a scene from “The Eleventh Hour!” (Photo credit: Zack Morrison)

Compounding the aural onslaught is the audience seating configuration of a narrow runway with playing areas on each end, and the audience sitting on either side of the runway. Director Jessica Francis Fichter has the lively cast in vigorous motion often on the runway, in the aisles and everywhere else. One sits on a contained, hard folding chair perpetually pivoting from side to side in an attempt to take it all in. Ginny S. Haynes’ stylish choreography has an accomplished musical theater pizzazz.

Henry Fisher’s commanding guitar strumming and cool front man moves is matched by his soulful intensity and sly comic timing as Nevin. Miranda Luze’s forceful Amy is quite appealing. Making the most of her offbeat as Neil deGrasse Tyson is the beaming and amusing Olivia London. Christopher Pasi, Joshuah D. Simpson and Brianne Wylie all have grand moments as a variety of characters who pop up throughout.

Before The Eleventh Hour! begins there’s a 30-minute musical pre-show with different performers every night. The full bar in the lobby has a “Black Void” cocktail that’s made with an ample amount of vodka. Drinks are allowed into the theater making for a social environment.

The Eleventh Hour! (extended through December 1, 2018)

Smugbug Productions

Town Stages, 221 West Broadway, in Manhattan

For tickets, visit http://www.smugbugproductions.com

Running time: 105 minutes with no intermission

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Darryl Reilly
About Darryl Reilly (572 Articles)
A native New Yorker, Darryl Reilly graduated from NYU with a BFA in Cinema Studies. For the Broadway League, (formerly The League of American Theatres and Producers) he developed, and for five years conducted their Broadway Open House Tours, which took visitors through The Theatre District and into several Broadway theaters. He contributed to Broadway Musicals Show by Show: Sixth Edition (Applause Books). Since 2013, he has reviewed theater, cabaret, and concerts for Theaterscene.net.

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