Done to a Crisp

Hindenburg: the Musical

Written and directed by Brian C. Petti
Original music and musical direction by Joel Flowers
American Theatre of Actors Equity showcase (closed)
Review by Andrés J. Wrath

Never fear, it's not really a musical about the Hindenburg itself. It's a musical farce about putting up Hindenburg: the Musical in an Off-Broadway venue. Surprisingly, this idea has never come to fruition, what with everything else that has ended up on the stage these days. Hindenburg: the Musical, a comedy written and directed by Brian C. Petti, in any case offers two different elements you do find in the Off-Off Broadway venue. The best, seldom seen, is a true theatrical talent (Petti); the worst was all the padding that was used to fill up an entire evening.

Get this: a bunch of actors come together to read the play they are about to perform and realize it's crap. How many who were ever involved in any sort of theatre can relate to this? Anyone who can't relate? Good. It's the most wonderful conceit the play has to offer. The dramatic engine revs up with the question, how does this production stay afloat without bombing? Unfortunately, all this comes to fruition at the opening of Act Two. The first act consists of meeting all the actors at an audition, to explain their uncanny behavior by the end of the play. Act One was mostly long-winded, with two many stereotypes to count. The actors are the perky Millie (Sarah Dawson), the angry lesbian Erma (Jill Carroll), the bitchy gay guy David (Rich Hotaling), the sleazy womanizer Rick (James Elmore), and the lesbian-phobic fag hag Mary Jo (Mary Ellen Nelligar). The characters behind the audition desk do not fare much better. Without the talented Lawrence Merritt there would be nothing remotely redemptive in the character of the outrageous queen Rodney, who is making his Off-Broadway comeback.

If the play started with Act Two's wonderful dramatic conceit, cutting out the expository scenarios of Act One, perhaps the evening would not have seemed so drawn-out. The second half of the show was where the joys of Mr. Petti and his cast came alive. The musical numbers by Joel Flowers are obscene, purposely awful, and show-stoppingly wonderful. With songs like "Hydrogen" you may never want to leave the theatre. Simply put, any show can benefit from the music of Flowers. So much so you may even forgive most of Act One. In Act Two, the cast that seemed to be too over-the-top made up for lost time in the musical scenes and farcical elements; and Petti's direction seemed so sure of itself it might seem that two people directed the show. Even so, Act Two is too reminiscent of The Producers and still needs to hone in on a protagonist. At present, it's hard to determine whose play it actually is.

The uncredited lights were serviceable, and the set by Kevin Larsen and Kathryn Hunter Luciana was spare and did the trick.

Others in the cast included Sal Polichetti, Joe P. Morgan, Peter J. Dawson, and Collin Warhaftig.

Box Score:

Writing: 1

Directing: 1

Acting: 1

Set: 1

Costumes: 1

Lighting/Sound: 1

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Copyright 2001 Andrés J. Wrath