Friday, June 21, 2013

Hollywood Fringe Review: EXORCISTIC: The Rock Musical Parody Experiment

Laura Sperrazza as Megan

When Michael Shaw Fisher walks out to introduce Exorcistic: The Rock Musical Parody Experiment at its Fringe Mainstage home, it takes a few minutes before you realize that the musical has actually begun. Already knee deep in the show-within-a-show concept, he explains that this is a workshop presentation of his world premiere rock musical as backstage business becomes part of the onstage action. 

Over the next 80 minutes the show will progress from The Staged Reading to The Fringe to The Pantages as a theatre company mounts a musical parody production of The Exorcist and unwittingly unleashes a demonic force that takes over and leads them through an Exorcist-inspired series of deadly events.

Book, music & lyrics are by Fisher and the show features a 70s rock score, full of Michael Teoli’s arrangements, that blows the roof off the place. Fisher’s lyrics are raw, profane, and hilarious, extracting all of the film’s most controversial lines in its songs, most of which feature titles I can’t reprint here.

The book is still going through changes (yes, a necessary evil now that it is up in front of an audience and the team can see what flies and what doesn’t). Fisher has already announced that this is a work in progress and feedback is welcomed as he shapes the piece into a finished product. The audience was not particularly responsive at the late night performance I attended but that didn’t stop the actors from going balls to the wall every minute. My guess is that many of them never saw the film so were oblivious to the way Fisher and director Pat Towne have cleverly fashioned scenes and stage business to reference Exorcist’s unforgettable images.

Curt Bonnem and Jesse Merlin

Curt Bonnem’s devious Captain Howdy is a maliciously creepy entity that he throws himself into with gritty glee and Jimmy Swan’s Troubled Priest is disturbing on a whole other level. Fisher, Jesse Merlin, Anna Bowen and Sarah Chaney all serve up boldly twisted characters with dead seriousness and total commitment.

But let’s face it. The reason to see this original musical is for the electrifying performance of Laura Sperrazza as the Possessed Girl. The Glombies lead singer is a gyrating, no hold barred paradox of innocence and decadence, belting out incredibly difficult vocals with such all-consuming passion you’ll be amazed. What she can do with her voice is nothing short of astonishing. Watch the preview above and youll see what I mean.

Fishers Exorcistic may not be fully settled yet but its on the right track as director Pat Towne continues to make the most of this dedicated ensemble. By the time the bodies are buried, and the guttural expletives and rock & roll exorcism ends, youll have had quite an otherworldly experience. Its got cult following written all over it.

Orgasmico Theatre Company
Through June 29, 2013
Fringe Mainstage, 6209 Santa Monica Blvd.

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