The Anthem is a frenetic rock musical inspired by cult author Ayn Rand’s 1938 futuristic novella. Using her plot as a starting point, the creators deliriously run amok with admitted influences of The Rocky Horror Show, The Hunger Games and Xanadu as well as shades of Buck Rogers, Flash Gordon and Barbarella. One can enjoy it without having read the story or even knowing of the author. That the solemn political and literary iconoclast is the original source of this very entertaining loopy spectacle adds to its camp cachet. A disco ball looms over the proceedings.
In a far off time, 21-year-old Prometheus clashes with an oppressive tyrannical regime led by Pandora and her wily second-in-command Tiberius. Fleeing to an enchanted forest, he takes up with members of the rebellion, falling in love with The Queen of The Forest amidst battles and revelations.
Working with Gary Morgenstein’s inventively comical book, director choreographer and designer Rachel Klein is the visionary auteur of this vibrant fantasia, in association with Danielle Marie Fusco. Her costumes (aided by associate designer Kae Burke) are a sumptuous collection of outrageous silvery metallic tights and earthy forestial attire that encase the well-developed bodies of the attractive and dynamic cast. The Executioner (the stolidly wry Jamyl Dobson) is tall and muscular in black leather short shorts. Tiberius (played by legendary Village People cowboy Randy Jones) is a Tom of Finland vision in black fetishistic military gear. Everyone’s persona is clearly defined by Candace Carell’s expertly flamboyant makeup design.
When the asexual purpose against “unnatural coupling” at The Palace of Mating is subverted it leads to a razzle dazzle number that recalls Bob Fosse’s “Air-otica” from All That Jazz. There’s also a beautiful sequence involving colorful parasols and another with dancers on roller skates. Periodically members of the cast breathtakingly perform Cirque Du Soleil-type twirling acrobatics from ropes created by aerial rigging designer Joshua Sherer that highlights scenic designer Robert Andrew Kovach’s boldly expansive set that seamlessly serves as numerous locations. Three television sets play prop and projection designer Ellie Engstrom’s funny animations commenting on and moving the action along. Kryssy Wright’s lighting design ably adds an exciting sci-fi dimension to everything.
The accomplished score by lyricist Erik Ransom and composer Jonnie Rockwell is an engaging series of rock compositions that forcefully have the characters express themselves and propel the action. Music director Michael S. Gayle and music coordinator Mike Lunoe contribute greatly to the show’s musical achievements. Sound designer and violinist Sean Hagerty artfully melds the score and the many aspects of the narrative sounds.
As the hero, Jason Gotay’s personability matches his exceptional singing and acting talents. Ashley Kate Adams as The Queen of The Forest is a wonder in her winged cape and in her performance. Jenna Leigh Green’s focused seriousness as the regal ruler adds great depth. Randy Jones is an evil delight in the over-the-top tradition of John Waters’ characters.
The ensemble made up of Patch David, Brian Joseph Ferree, Shiloh Goodin, Em Grosland, Katie Lee Hill, Crista Marie Jackson, Damian Thompson and Remy Zaken all infuse the show with a tremendous variety of performing skills.
This campy extravaganza channels the spirit, tone and sound of past offbeat edgy musicals: an appropriate subtitle for it would be Ayn Rand Superstar.
The Anthem (though July 6, 2014)
Lynn Redgrave Theater, 45 Bleecker Street, at Lafayette Street, in Manhattan
For tickets, call 866-811-4111 or visit http://www.ovationtix.com
Running time: two and half hours including one intermission