Book and Lyrics by Molly Miller, Music by Brad Kemp
Directed by Tyler Samples; Choreographed by Lauren Lopez
Part of the 2016 New York International Fringe Festival
Off Off Broadway, Musical
Runs through 8.23.16
VENUE #2: Flamboyan Theater at the Clemente, 107 Suffolk Street
by Ashley Steves on 8.30.16
Carly Olson, Lisa Burton, Rosie Moan (kneeling), Lexi Alioto, Nick Shine, Chris Blake, Niq Schwartz, Sarah Hoffman, Sarah Dell'Amico, Erin Rein, and Seth Wanta in Tribulation: The Musical. Photo by Oopey Mason.
BOTTOM LINE: Despite some genuinely funny moments, Tribulation: The Musical is haphazard and a bit over the top.
It’s the end of the world as we know it in Tribulation: The Musical, a new musical/opera comedy by Molly Miller (book and lyrics) and Brad Kemp (music) based on the Bible’s Book of Revelation. Tribulation opens in the midst of “the pinnacle of the human race,” or 2021. Religion is dead and sex is a non-necessity (or at least a non-concern), and maybe most amazingly of all, everybody seems happy…at least until the apocalypse comes.
Even at the end of the world, you still have to pay rent and go to work. Thrust into their new roles at Smartlife Insurance, wannabe poet Genevieve (Sarah Hoffman), scientist turned theist Nathan (Seth Wanta), and Lilly (Erin Rein), a hypersexual hedonist, hurdle their way through the mundanity of data entry, supervised by an overly enthusiast go-getter of a manager (Sarah Dell’Amico), and Dameon Goodman (Nick Shine), the new boss who is literally the Devil.
The show has some genuinely funny moments. As a whole, Tribulation sometimes rings like the lovechild of South Park: Bigger, Longer, Uncut and The Book of Mormon. Employees of Smartlife are late because the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse are ripping people apart on the I-90. God is too busy to help because He’s into more important things, “like making sure privileged kids get into private schools.”
Maybe the best moment of the musical—certainly the best song—is “We Told You So,” a delightfully preachy and not-so-tongue-in-cheek number where Nathan sings about Fox News’ gospel following years of claims the apocalypse is, in fact, coming. At the song’s conclusion, Nathan gets worked up from his smug indignation, and Wanta milks this moment for all it's worth. In fact, Wanta proves over and over again throughout Tribulation’s hour and 40-minutes to be its funniest asset.
Not all of the humor succeeds, however. Lilly’s nymphomaniac storyline, even in the context of Revelation’s Prophet and Whore premise, is more than a bit excessive. Many of Lilly's scenes cross the line from raunchy to crude, especially the song, “Sex in the Tribulation,” in which men and women straddle each other sexually in the background.
But although there is humor, act one is disjointed, partly because there are a lot of threads to Tribulation.
And even though act two manages to tie up every one of these loose threads, it does so in a way that feels unsatisfying. Even when Jesus (enjoyably played by Zach Dimond), a stoner who believes in string theory, makes his first appearance in the show’s second half (just like the Bible!), you forget it’s supposed to be a big part of the payoff, not to mention a slapdash climax. This final battle between kind of good and definitely evil ends so quickly it barely has time to fizzle.
(Tribulation: The Musical plays at VENUE #2: Flamboyan Theater at the Clemente, 107 Suffolk Street, through August 23, 2016. The running time is 1 hour 40 minutes. Performances are Sat 8/18 at 2; Fri 8/19 at 7; Sat 8/20 at 9:30; Mon 8/22 at 2; and Tue 8/23 at 4:30. There is no late seating at FringeNYC. Tickets are $18 and are available at fringenyc.org. For more information visit tribulationthemusical.com.)
Tribulation: The Musical is by Molly Miller and Brad Kemp. Directed by Tyler Samples. Musical Direction by Charlie Worth. Choreography by Lauren Lopez. Costume Design by Chelsea Rendlen. Production Manager is Danielle Susi.
The cast is Sarah Hoffman, Seth Wanta, Erin Rein, Sarah Dell’Amico, Nick Shine, Zach Dimond, Lexi Alioto, Lisa Burton, Rosie Moan, and Niq Schwartz.