BWW Reviews: DOMA Inaugurates DORIAN'S DESCENT
Dorian's Descent/World Premiere Musical/DOMA/book by Marco Gomez, Michael Gray, Chris Raymond/music by Chris Raymond; lyrics by Marco Gomez and Chris Raymond/choreographed by Tania Possick/directed by Marco Gomez/through July 20
After a brilliant season 2012-2013, which included such tremendously satisfying hits as Avenue Q and Dreamgirls, DOMA has returned, after a long hiatus, with a world premiere musical Dorian's Descent. It is most unfortunate when a show bases itself on brilliance, namely Oscar Wilde and The Picture of Dorian Gray, and then falls far beneath its predecessor. Despite some quite wonderful technical work in sets, costumes and lighting design, stylish choreography and some fine singing from its actors, Dorian's Descent is hard to pinpoint as it never truly ascends. Now onstage at the MET theatre, the rock-opera-like musical, which one had hoped to be unforgettable, really is, but for all the wrong reasons. Yes, it has miles of ambiance, but not much more!
Broadway experiences turkeys all the time, but it seems sad. All the work of the actors and the creative team...for naught? When a small out-of-town company, whose vision is usually on track, somehow loses its way, this might prove to be a Godsend. Maybe with much added work, rewriting, retooling, the musical will find its legs and hit the road. I am reminded of another Dorian musical - there have been a few - about 10 years ago at the NoHo Arts Center, which was unusually inventive and different in theme and structure and with a rhythmical, jazzy score. That show deserved far more positive attention than this one, and yet...it never got its due. It's still sitting on a shelf somewhere. Which brings us to the question: are original musicals, by unknown composers, doomed to failure whether they are good or not? It's really an unhappy state of affairs in musical theatre right now, but I surely digress...that's fodder for another article. Back on target to more critique of Dorian's Descent...
Taking a work of such high magnitude as Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray is daunting, to say the least. Unless you have something distinctly creative to bring to the fore, then leave it alone as a work of art and invent something else. At least give it dramatic tension! The book - and music - by Marco Gomez and Chris Raymond are not engaging, but could be better if more of Wilde's witty, clever sayings were utilized instead of the superficial, oversimplified lines heard in both dialogue and lyrics that do indeed forward the story but sound like they were written by a third-grader. Dorian's (Michael D'Elia) song at the top of Act I with Henry (Kelly Brighton) and Basil (Jeremy Saje) "I Don't Want to Lose Myself" has genuine intelligence and feeling, but the score goes down hill from there. There is a definite mood of decadence created in the clubs with "Let's Forget Together" making superb use of vibrant costuming from Michael Mullen, alluring set pieces by John Iacovelli, dark, forboding lighting by Jean-Yves Tessier and stylish staging from Possick and Gomez. Nonetheless, these high points are only now and then, not enough to sustain an entire evening. And Act I is far too long, coming in at 1 hour, 35 minutes. Maybe it was just the pacing that was off?...
As many rock operas go, the music hopes to soar but most of Raymond/Gomez's collaborations have a sing-song quality that do not meld to bring meaningful or even pleasurabe effects. When Basil sings his lament "Act I Finale", what sounds at first like a ripoff of Judas' lament in Jesus Christ Superstar ends up being a poorly constructed amateurish imitation. So, both the music and book need improvements, but what about the acting? Overall, the company of singers are just fine. I do think D'Elia is an odd choice for Dorian. Dorian is supposed to be rather stunning, cold and unfeeling. D'Elia is attractive, but not overly so and seems perplexed as to what to do as an actor, so stands blank-faced, indifferent. Thank God he can sing! Saje and Brighton do nice work and the ladies - Toni Smith as The Demon, Cassandra Nuss as Sibyl Vane, Lauren Hill as Madeline Hallward are all equally compelling, in ultra-fine voice. Terrific moments come as well from Michelle Holmes as Sibyl's mother Margaret Vane and from Tony Graham, who's a real standout as Sibyl's vengeful brother James Vane.
Overall, Dorian's Descent is long, unfulfilling and totally below the standards set by Oscar Wilde. DOMA sets high standards, and hopefully, their next will bring them back to their former glory.