Leave it to Fringe to bring together the religious right, the New-Agey spiritual left and the Westboro Baptist Church. OK, so maybe not even Fringe can fully integrate those evil nutjobs from Topeka, Kansas, but the creators of FrankenChrist: the Musical! come close, all while delivering one of the smartest and funniest shows of this year’s festival.
“We have to face it: Jesus isn’t coming back,” says Ryan (Nathan Bonk), one of the right-wingers, before hatching a plan to seduce a mad German scientist (Skyler Knopp) into creating a new Jesus (Cole Harrell) from discarded body parts. Only too eager to help are his friends, “virgin” Mary (Carly Skubick) and preacher Sam (Tyler Conrady). Their only problem: Liberal spiritualists Teegan (Frida Soderdahl), Millet (Benedict Heaps) and Tony (Carlos Leon) have devised a similar strategy – only their “co-exist” Christ (Dale New) will be a bit more of an androgynous free spirit.
Written by Thom Mesrobian and Elaine Pechacek, directed by Mark Hartfield, choreographed by Amanda Warren and designed by Nick Judy, this new musical is a little bit Mary Shelley, a little bit Mary Magdalene and a whole lot of silly satire en route to a strangely entertaining mishmash of Christianity and commercialism. Not all the voices are strong enough to battle the too-loud, though professionally produced, pre-recorded music. In addition, a song-and-dance number examining the ethics of the characters’ actions (“What Have I Done?”) needs major revisions. But there’s enough here to amuse or perhaps annoy – in a healthy way – everyone on both sides of the political and religious divides, except for Fred Phelps, who can just go to hell. (Maybe his corpse can be used for spare parts?!)
Much like Frankenstein’s monster, the musical is a bit clunky and will need modifications before it truly comes alive. But Mesrobian and Pechacek have cobbled together an enjoyable, original creation that may have a post-Fringe future.
Acting Passionate Productions – Lakeland, FL
Length: 55 minutes
Price: $8 (+svc. charge)
Disc.: FA | HOSP | People wearing neck bolts
Rating: 13+ – Adult Language & Mild Sexual Humor