nytheatre.com review by Lee Ramsey
August 15, 2004
Rings—a Space/Rock Musical is the story of Les Vegas, a rocker who never made it to the big time and has been relegated to doing his act in the rings of Saturn. As Les prepares to go on tour he receives an emergency transmission from Uncle Bu who runs an orphanage. He tells Les that he's dying and he needs him to take the oldest of "his children" with him on his travels so that he can learn of the universe and come back and teach the others. Along the way Les crosses paths with his former music partner/girlfriend Selene, the ominous Reverend Spike, and The Great Brain, an all knowing head in a jar. All the things that you would expect to happen do and there's a happy ending for all.
There are several good performances. Jay Montgomery, a handsome leading man with a strong voice and tons of charisma, does a very nice job as Les. The beautiful Pamela Vandenberg is very believable as the holographic Suzi, who longs to be real and unite with Les. And then there's the wonderful Stacey Robinson as The Reverend Spike with his fabulous back-up girls Erica Ash and Selena Nelson. There are also very nice performances from the three children, Zach Sorrow, Patrick Henney, and a little girl with a great big voice named Bianca Ryan.
Now for the downside. The book and lyrics by Les Vegas (yes, he has the same name as our anti-hero) and the music by Vegas and Jon Ossman all seem derivative of other musicals. And the direction (once again by Vegas) is one of the production's major downfalls. The staging is awkward, the transitions from scene to scene are badly done, and the production lacks effective pacing. The choreography by Robert Tunstall is at best pedestrian and is poorly executed by an ensemble of what appear to be either inexperienced or very under-rehearsed dancers (including Tunstall).
The technical aspects of the production are very ambitious for FringeNYC. All of the sets are projected in 3-D on a large screen and all of the singers wear individual mikes. Unfortunately at the performance I attended the mikes rarely worked and the projections worked only sporadically.
One final note: the production is very long but the theatre is beautifully air-conditioned. There may be wonderful new American musicals out there waiting to be discovered, but alas, Rings—a Space/Rock Musical appears from this production not to be one of them.