Fans of Broadway-style musical theater take note: Weird Romance delivers. With a whopping 18 infectiously memorable tunes, Alan Brennert’s book comes alive with the music of Alan Menken (Little Shop of Horrors, Beauty & the Beast) and lyrics by David Spencer. It’s created as “two one-act musicals of speculative fiction” for the stage. In respectful, satirical salute to the script, TMCC’s production is a dazzling spectacle that takes the audience first to the romance, then to the weird.
The first act, “The Girl Who Was Plugged In,” features Philadelphia Burke, a homeless and hungry bag lady (Reno’s affably talented Jane Addington) plucked for a high-tech soul switcheroo by scientist Isham (a perfectly cast Rod Hearn). He transforms her into the curvaceously celeb-droid, Delphi, brought to life by Echo Olsen, whose performance and voice is a sparkling spoke in a disciplined, well-honed wheel. Under the direction of Paul Aberasturi, the first act, the “romance,” establishes the conflicts inherent in what-might-have-been, oozing fine gems galore: “What you choose to wear and buy is what you are … we are defining the character of a nation!
“Celebrities—stars—are notoriously capricious, difficult to control and expensive. We’re looking into ways to grow our own,” and the definitive last-resort, exclaimed by Isham: “Call the goddamned media department!”
By intermission, audience members are drooling, wondering if Isham’s disenchanted, lab-rat son, Paul (Mike Rapisora), is going to get the girl. As the curtain rises on the second act, “Her Pilgrim Soul,” what unfolds seems an enigmatic disconnection to the first. Henceforth, the “weird” half of the musical’s title and a metaphor for story progression, uttered by Kevin (Isham in Act One) to Nola (Delphi in Act One) “The minute you’re happy in the world, that’s when someone pulls the rug out from under you!”
Patience, patience … all is revealed and resolved by Weird Romance‘s exciting and strange finale.
Confusion is both a necessary tool and an irrelevant distraction, a dichotomy perhaps best illustrated by Isham’s urging to “Close your eyes. Can’t have two sets of visual stimuli confusing you.”
Rest assured, this gentle digression gives way to enlightenment; besides, you’ll be so busy humming the chorus to “Feeling No Pain” during intermission to even care.
The cast, choreography and performance are so deliciously consummated, you’ll be searching for a smoke, a light and your moth-eaten fishnets from The Rocky Horror Picture Show, to which Weird Romance has been compared. Each capably gifted performer portrays at least two characters in the show, that they deftly execute each scene change themselves, that music director Ted Owens is also an indefatigable tickler of the ivories. The bottom, body-lifted line: Weird Romance rocks!
Commitment is a notable, behind-the-scenes impression, as Truckee Meadows Community College’s Visual and Performing Arts Department grows by pliés and pirouettes behind the strength of this production, courtesy of a committed, creative core, adamant to train talented youth and now offering a degree in musical theater.
Weird Romance producer Carolyn Wray concurs.
“It took brilliant work and intriguing faculty who wanted the best for students, plus a lot of cooperation between dance, music and theater, because it is a cooperative art. [The administration sees] students working really hard, being goal-oriented and succeeding, and they’ve been very supportive by helping us get this building. They backed it with funding. It’s a huge, educational investment.”
Which means TMCC’s weird romance with the theater is just beginning.