nytheatre.com review by Pun Bandhu
August 12, 2006
It would be reasonable to assume that the story of Lucifer's fall from grace would provide an exciting, epic backdrop for the age-old battle of angels and demons for Man's soul. The rock opera Fallen Angel, however, ultimately fails to move the spirit.
The able cast put their hearts into their performances, and there are a few standouts—most notably an actor who goes only by the name of Delisco, who, as the Angel Gabriel, testifies in a rollicking gospel number that he is "a fan of The Man." It is the closest thing to a show-stopper that this show offers.
The cast is never able to rise above the weak book and forced lyrics provided by Justin Murphy (in one unintentionally funny line, Murphy's desperate search for a rhyme leads him to describe Eve as a "buxom babe"). I think the piece would have engaged me more had Murphy focused on the core story of a love turned bitter because of jealousy. As it is, the relationship between God and Lucifer is not fleshed out enough for us to understand what is at stake. God (Roger Butterley, who also co-wrote the music with Murphy) says that Lucifer (Mike McGowan) is His favorite, but we don't see why. Is Lucifer more devoted than the other angels? He doesn't seem to be. Does God prefer independent thinkers? Was Lucifer his first creation? Indeed, it doesn't seem as if God loves Lucifer—or His mortal creations for that matter—any more than all His other children, so it is hard to understand where Lucifer's jealousy over the mortals is coming from. Beyond that, I wanted a clear point of view to tell me why I should care about this story. Who should I be rooting for? Was Lucifer misunderstood? Did he love too much? Was God guilty of being just as prideful as His banished protégé? What can this story tell me about my own tenuous relationship with good and evil?
The music starts out promising with the song "Credo", as ancestral choral hymns blend into a pulsing rock and roll anthem about love and devotion. But then it becomes a general wash, with very few songs standing out. Gabriel's number, previously mentioned, is an exception, and another is the promising song "Freedom" near the end of the first act—the music turns darker, building into more of an industrial frenzy that likens comparisons to Nine Inch Nails or Nitzer Ebb. This song captures the rupturing and cracking of Heaven perfectly and indeed provides both the thrill and moodiness that this piece seems to be calling out for. It's a shame there isn't more of it.
Director/choreographer Josh Walden does a good enough job of orchestrating the movements of 17 people on a small stage, and adds some bits of very watchable choreo-fighting thrown in for good measure, but there is nothing here that seems inspired enough to elevate this musical into the epic and operatic scale in which it needs to live. This Fallen Angel never soars.