Superhero Celebrity Rehab: The Musical
nytheatre.com review by Judith Jarosz
June 6, 2009
Superhero "Super Nova" (energetically played by Bill Coyne) has a problem. He can raise the power of a thousand suns to help ward off evil, but can't seem to kick his own evil addiction to cocaine. After he has a clumsy hopped-up encounter with a meek frustrated actor named Susan Mills (the talented Corrie Beula) who, after 15 years of auditioning with no results, suddenly discovers in a rage that she has the power to black out energy (she becomes the evil "Black Hole") the city commissioner insists that Super Nova check into a rehab center for super heroes. Sound like fun? It is.
In rehab, Super Nova meets other heroes with various abilities, grabbling with their own addictions and issues. They are an amusing lot. There's Scarlet Letter (an adorable, curvaceous Jana DeBusk) who is addicted to sex, Fondue (a dapper and lively Bryce Kemph) who is addicted to food, the socially repressed Critter (an endearing and hilarious Will Cooper), and Nightmare (a humorously creepy Sam Perwin), who has a secret. The group is led by "ex" hero Ultima, who now goes by Dr. Bonnie (Melody Moore in a wonderful turn) who used to be a "heroine hooked on heroin." Each character has a chance to shine as they share their struggles, and we see Super Nova falter then regain his balance as he goes through therapy. I won't say how it ends, but it's a musical comedy, so you won't be sad.
All of the performers are very talented, with strong comic timing and vocal chops. The piece rolls along with a lot of laughs for the first hour, then it takes a strange turn, and doesn't seem to quite want to be a comedy anymore. We, the audience, get a little confused and uneasy. When Super Nova goes back to confront his family, it feels like a scene that belongs in another show. At two hours the piece needs an intermission and there are several songs that are not necessary to plot and could be cut. There are also some wonderful highlights. Brendon Snow and William Segal wrote the book, with music and lyrics by Segal. The music is in the modern style that is popular right now, and although the singing is strong throughout, there is a lot of high belting that proves difficult for the cast, and produces some unattractive moments. (Does anyone write for baritones and basses anymore?) The writing in general is very witty and a monologue that Fondue executes while confronting a box of Pop-Tarts is worth the price of admission.
There is no set, and director Matt Johnston does a nice job of using the entire bare space well, including the walls! His performers need to be told to cheat out a bit more in the space as words and lyrics were sometime lost due to profile blocking. Angie McCormack's lighting design is very well thought out and supports the action well. The fight choreography by Morgan Hooper is also enjoyable. Special kudos must be given to costume designer Betsy Strong, who, with a presumably shoestring budget, has created lively, colorful, and deliciously humorous outfits for all.
I asked to review this musical because the title sounded amusing, and indeed it is a fun idea. The production has a lot of good stuff going on. From the short (three performances) run, I can guess that they are still working on the piece and looking for the backing to sustain more performances. I for one am rooting for them.