Coming: A Rock Musical of Biblical Proportions
Book, Music, and Lyrics by Erik Ransom; Directed by Rachel Klein
Part of the 2014 New York International Fringe Festival
Off Off Broadway, New Musical
Runs through 8.22.14
Theatre 80, 80 St. Mark's Place
by Geri Silver on 8.12.14
Erik Ransom and Aurora Black in Coming: A Rock Musical of Biblical Proportions. Photo by Media Fine Imaging, Ltd.
BOTTOM LINE: There's a lot of promise in this edgy and comedic take on the Book of Revelation, but also plenty of room for improvement in the project's next draft.
One daring addition to this year's New York International Fringe Festival is Coming: A Rock Musical of Biblical Proportions. In this quirky, Rocky Horror-esque comedic retelling of the biblical Book of Revelation, the anti-Christ is a queer glam pop superstar and Jesus is a humble small-town boy from Bethlehem, PA. When innocent Josh (Glen North) aspires to spread his message of hope on reality TV's American Icon, he crosses paths with boozy and cynical Damien Salt (Erik Ransom, also the writer and composer), and the relationships and events that unfold go amusingly off-script from the ancient source material on which the musical is based.
There's plenty of creativity and bold storytelling in Ransom's book and score. Supporting characters, like Polish ex pornstar Magda (Ilana Gabrielle) and Damien's gay lover Cain (Courter Simmons), provide witty nods to biblical figures that add color to the creative concept. However, the tendency for some jokes to land and others to fall awkwardly flat, and the hit-or-miss nature of the songs (a mournful rock ballad "God Hates Fags," sung during a slow-motion hate crime, is a particularly problematic one) reveal that the project is still in somewhat of an early developmental stage. Despite the funny puns and mostly irreverent tone to the piece, the musical's message—a clear hit to right-wing Christianity and the negativity and violence often sparked by religious fundamentalism—is delivered with a heavy-handed smugness that leaves a strange taste in your mouth. Direction by Rachel Klein is mostly over-the-top, elevating the show's camp factor but faltering during serious moments.
Still, the skeleton of a fun and witty piece lies beneath this uneven product, and a talented cast lifts the material with their energy and dedication. Sound and lighting problems plagued Act 1 (God's wrath, perhaps?), but the tech improved in Act 2 and allowed the audience to better enjoy the score's dynamic rock offerings. FringeNYC is an excellent step for this ambitious work in progress, and performing the piece for a live audience will hopefully shed some light on the strengths and weaknesses of this early draft. With further editing and attention to the delivery of the show's message, there may be an interesting future in store for this unique and commendable project.
(Coming: A Rock Musical of Biblical Proportions plays at Theatre 80, 80 St. Mark's Place, through August 22, 2014. Remaining performances are Friday 8/15 at 8:45PM; Wednesday 8/20 at 8:45PM; and Friday 8/22 at 2PM. Tickets are $18 and are available at fringenyc.org. For more info visit www.comingthemusical.com.)