Monday, June 13, 2011

A Whole Lotta Laughs in THE MILFORD PROJECT

The cast of The Milford Project. Photo by Lawson Deming

Nothing beats playing your very first performance of a new show before a loud, excited, packed house. Opening night always has a special energy and when you’ve poured five years into your musical like writers Kevin Oeser and Nick Martin, it’s got to feel good. That it happens on the first night of the 2nd Annual Hollywood Fringe Festival makes it even better.

Martin & Oeser’s new musical, The Milford Project, takes place in small town Milford, Iowa in 1937. 13-year old science genius Richie is Milford Junior High’s best chance for a blue ribbon at the Iowa State Fair, but before he can enter, he’s kidnapped by a government agent and forced to create a super-bomb that could destroy the world…or at least Milford…if anything goes wrong. And it certainly does. With the fate of the free world in his hands, Richie must defy the U.S. government, battle Nazi spies, overcome his own pre-pubescent hormones, and hopefully save his town.

I like a show that makes me laugh out loud and Milford delivers more than its share of fun thanks to Oeser, a comedy writer who has trained with Upright Citizens Brigade and created numerous video hits for Funny or Die. Martin's songs are bright and serviceable but at times I had to strain to hear the singers over the musicians. That’s unfortunate because Martin and Oeser’s lyrics are quite clever and it’s a shame to miss any of the jewels embedded within.

The cast is an enthusiastic group with good comic chops as a whole and an appealing commitment to the over-the-top style, although the singing is uneven. Matthew Boehm is very likeable as Richie and cast standouts include John LeMay as the power-hungry agent who kidnaps him, Desi Domo as one of Dr. Plumstead’s sexy minions, and Kelsey Robinson as Student #2. Hint: it’s all about the ants.  Jake Regal, as Richie’s gawky friend Gerald also turns in a hysterically funny performance. He’s got physical comedy down to, well, a science.

The one-act musical does seem a bit long at 90 minutes and could easily be tightened up. That said, The Milford Project is full of potential, has a great fun factor, and provides a whole lotta laughs.

Remaining Fringe performances are June 17, 18, 19, 24 and 25. For location details and more information go to www.hollywoodfringe.com/projects/327.

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