Sunday, June 16, 2013

Hollywood Fringe Review: The Time Machine Musical

Steve Altman as William Parke in The Time Machine Musical

The Time Machine Musical is a one-hour condensed version of a longer two act musical adapted for the Fringe by Steve Altman and Joshua Fardon based on the H.G. Wells sci-fi story. Fardon directs what is in essence a memorized staged reading style production with cast members seated in chairs at the back of the stage when not in scenes. Altman is responsible for the book, music & lyrics and also stars as the production’s leading man, William Parke, aka the time traveler. Parke invents a time machine and travels to the future where he finds that humans have evolved into two groups; the Eloi, who spend their days in a hallucinogen haze, and the evil Morlocks who rule over them.

To serve the time frame (no pun intended) of the Fringe schedule, the creative team has made the decision to eliminate all but the major plot points and present a series of songs from the show with brief sections of dialogue and Fardon acting as narrator in between. Cheeky choreography – perhaps the best element of this particular production – is the work of Tara Raucci, and though not always well-executed by the full cast, lends energy and life to an otherwise unfocused endeavor.

Muscially, the show is a blend of pop rock numbers and rock & roll specialties with stylistic nods to the circus, vaudeville, the Beatles, electronica, and Gilbert & Sullivan. The voices are not typical musical theatre voices for the most part, nor would you consider them true rockers. As such the solo numbers seem to lack confidence and do not always keep the audience engaged. Exceptions include Altman’s “I Figured it Out,” Raucci’s lovely pop ballad “Freedom,” some of the Morlocks’ guttural rock offerings and a few Eloi sections that I’m unable to credit to the right singer because they are not specified in the program. When the ensemble does click in at the ends of songs the choral harmonies are unexpectedly stirring.

The piece has potential but I wonder if a theatrical production is really the right form for this particular tale. I can picture it being staged in a club, rock concert style, with singers on hand held or stationary mics while the band’s potential to create mood & scene changes is enhanced. (The band is great by the way).

It would also allow for a pretty terrific set of effects using video projections, sound manipulation, and a crazy lighting design that would stimulate the power of the audience’s imagination to fill in the gaps of what isn’t shown onstage. The beginnings are evident in the current presentation but with limited resources are not able to be fully realized yet. Perhaps there will be more to come on that front as development continues but in it’s current form I didn’t find it a satisfying theatrical experience.

As for it’s future, I guess only time will tell.

THE TIME MACHINE MUSICAL
Through June 27, 2013
Elephant Stages 
1076 Lillian Way
Tickets: http://hff13.org/1176

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