Rock operas are cool. (I know, I know…. Sometimes I border on the profound)But let's face it, they are. A rare treat. I mean, how many rock operas can you name? Ok, besides The Who's Tommy? I think there is reason for fans (and novices, alike) of the rock opera genre to be excited. LA ROC, The Los Angeles Rock Opera Company, has hit the ground running with their debut production, shAme, and their potential overflows.
shAme currently running every Wednesday at Hollywood nightclub/bar the King King, is a diamond in the rough in some ways, a major success in others, and sometimes just a valiant try. It has the right ingredients: good story (based on the classic novel The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne) good venue (rock opera in a suitably grungy but Hollywood hip King King) with stiff alcoholic beverages readily on hand to help in times when the show falters. A responsible buzz while enjoying a little art and entertainment never hurt anyone.
Everyone knows the story of the widow (or so we thought) Hester Prynne (Katrina Lenk) who finds herself single and with child in 1642. Her husband, Roger Chillingworth (Danny Shorago), once thought dead, re-appears with condemnation of her affair, along with the rest of the town. Despite pressure from the townsfolk and her husband, Hester refuses to give up the identity of her child's father and is forced to wear the infamous letter A for the rest of her days. The local holy figure, Arthur Dimmesdale (Mark Luna), defends her from scrutiny, all while being plagued with guilt because (surprise) he is the father of the child and lover of Hester. I know I didn't give anything away there…. All wrapped up with the tragic ending you would expect.
There are aspects of this production that are not to be missed. The venue and the use of it was outrageous. Janet Roston (director/choreograher) hit the ball out of the park with staging and using the space to it's greatest potential. The performers were on stage, on tables, walking (all while belting a rockin tune, of course) through the audience, way up in a loft, hanging on to a steel beam… what a great space to add to the look and feel of the show. The costumes (Leah Piehl) were spot on; oddly period yet modern at the same time… and definitely added to the production, as did the rock concert lighting (Sean Forrester). The use of space, the look and feel, was possibly the best I have seen in any production in Los Angeles. Are you panicked that I haven't mentioned the performers or the music itself? Well, you should have some concern…
The performers were all incredibly gifted singers. Let me tell you, I was grateful for that. My hesitation in gushing about them is because overall, they weren't proficient in the rock opera genre… which is ridiculously specific, but important. Think Mick Jagger singing "Satisfaction" and then Nathan Lane singing the same tune. There would be a difference. Nathan Lane is a great musical theatre performer and singer, but most likely couldn't pull off the "rock opera" style. In general, these performers didn't either. The absolute exception was Danny Shorago as Chillingworth (aka evil husband). Danny could rock and seemed born to be a rock opera star, but was definitely over the top in comparison to the rest of the cast. Katrina Lenk (Ms. A herself) was quite good in capturing the style as well. I am on the fence with Laura Darrel who played her daughter, and Mark Luna, the lover. The others… again I say, gifted singers, need to go to rock opera school.
The music and lyrics by Mark Governor fit somewhere between the diamond in the rough category to a valiant effort. Which isn't too shabby. Some of the lyrics were laughable (it's ok, just take a swig of your drink) especially at the top of the show. The music was Governor's strong suit. There were songs near perfection ("Interior of a Heart" and "Freedom is a Place")… and others that could be totally rewritten. But all very polished. This show isn't a work in progress and nothing about it makes you feel that it is. The music, the performances, and the production… all aspects, very polished.
The cheesy, get rid-of-it gimmick of the show? The "multi media" projected on the back wall of the stage shown throughout the show. Seriously. There is an obvious mistrust that the production will stand on its own and hold the audience's attention. The truth? The show would be good enough without it. It will, even with its imperfections, hold your attention. Remember, rock opera's are cool. This new company is cool... and on the right track. Go out and support the cause.
King King, 6565 Hollywood Blvd, LA, CA 90028
Wednesdays, 8 pm 323-960-5775
Must be 21+ one drink minimum
Through July 16, $25.