How to Save the World and Find True Love--in 90 Minutes
nytheatre.com review by Kim Kefgen
August 15, 2004
How to Save the World and Find True Love in 90 Minutes feels like one of those auditions where Broadway talent is recruited to help “sell” a show to financial backers. The singer/actors are great; the production values are simple but clever; the house is full. Unfortunately, in this case the material (book and lyrics by Jonathan Karp, music by Seth Weinstein) falls flat.
Miles Muldoon (played by Michael McEachran), a timid underachiever who works as a tour guide at the United Nations, has a crush on diplomat Violet Zipper (Nicole Ruth Snelson) and pals around with Julie Lemmon (Anika Larsen), the bookstore clerk who is secretly in love with him. Violet is cold, blond and calculating; Julie is cute, quirky, and wears pigtails. When Miles tries to impress Violet by speaking to a group of protesting Guatemalan melon farmers, he is pelted with melons. When he awakes, he discovers that he can hear what people are thinking. (Sometimes we can, too, while sometimes we just have to take his word for it.) In the end, Miles gets to be a hero and have his choice of women, and he’s grown up so much that he picks the one who says that love is being open over the one who says love is a negotiation.
How to Save... is a screwball comedy that isn’t funny. The only time I laughed was at a sight gag late in the performance and that was too little too late. Now I know that musical comedy rarely intends to be Shakespeare, but I was bored and slightly embarrassed. The plot is predictable, the dialogue is bland, and the attempts to be clever or edgy seem contrived. To be fair, I think a lot of effort went into the creation of this show. And the rest of the audience was enthused and responded with laughter and applause, and that puzzled me. Maybe I didn’t get it.
The performers are quite good with strong voices and amazing commitment. McEachran really works up there, onstage 99% of the time, and he never misses a beat. He proves himself a versatile and interesting actor/singer, and this is a good showcase for him. Larsen imbues her character with spunk and Snelson works hard to give Violet some dimension. I also really liked the Greek Chorus (Trent Armand Kendall, Dorrey Lin Lyles, and Rob Sapp), who play everyone from the melon farmers to the Greek cooks in the UN cafeteria to the Secret Service.
This is a polished show with good talent on stage. If you’re willing to spend an hour and a half watching them sing and be silly, it won’t hurt you. But if you’re hoping to see the next original, groundbreaking musical, I’m afraid you must look elsewhere.