How To Save The World... In 90 Minutes: Mission Aborted
If the fun and cleverness of the first ten minutes of How To Save The Word And Find True Love In 90 Minutes could have been repeated eight more times I would say we have another winner at New World Stages. But this musical farce about political and romantic antics at the United Nations took a drastic freefall in quality just as I was settling back to enjoy what I figured to be a laugh-filled evening. The uninspired material of bookwriter/lyricist Jonathan Karp exercises veto power over the best efforts of a very talented supporting cast and some pleasant and catchy tunes by composer Seth Weinstein. From the outset, U.N. bookstore clerk Miles (Michael McEachran) says that indeed he has only 90 minutes in which to save the world. He then tells us how that situation came about in an 85-minute flashback. A well-meaning but socially clumsy guy, Miles has his own personal Greek chorus (Stephen Bienskie, Natalie Joy Johnson and Kevin Smith Kirkwood) that follows him around commenting on his life. Having no idea that his best friend and co-worker Julie (Anika Larsen) has a crush on him ("She looks like a slacker but beneath those pierced nipples lies the heart of The Little Mermaid.") Miles is fixated on the hot and unattainable diplomat Violet (Nicole Ruth Snelson), former sexy cover model for Disarmament Quarterly. Conked on the head with a melon during a Guatemalan demonstration against the increased American consumption of Kiwi fruit, Miles gains the ability to read minds and starts believing that Violet is attracted to him because whenever he's near her he can sense her thinking things like, "I wonder if he likes me" and "I think he's really hot." But it turns out Miles is mistaken because Violet is actually dating a terrorist named "He" (McEachran again). "He", it seems, is planning to set off a device in the General Assembly that will (insert sadly unfunny punch line here). Karp is apparently trying to be stupid/funny with this material, but the results are generally stupid/stupid. The talented director/choreographer Christopher Gattelli, who excels at this kind of off-the-wall farce, is given the unenviable task of staging a ballet where Guatemalan rioters attack Miles with melons, including a bit where Johnson, wearing melon halves on each breast and each butt cheek, slams his face with precision jiggles. Songs that repeat lyrics like "Why are all the good men unconscious?" and "I'm in love with a terrorist" certainly have the potential to be funny, but Karp's lyrics rarely find humor beyond the initial premise. Still, Gattelli draws some wonderful performances out of a strong singing cast. The golden pipes of adorably kooky Anika Larsen can always be depended on for some fierce belting and Weinstein gives her ample opportunity in a Celine Dion spoof. Nicole Ruth Snelson is hilarious as the steamy diplomat, especially when dancing Gattelli's wildly sexual moves.Stephen Bienskie, Natalie Joy Johnson and Kevin Smith Kirkwood sound great together in their pop belt vocals and each has fun moments playing small roles.
I've never heard leading man Michael McEachran sing before, but he has a lot of musicals listed in his bio so without going into detail I'm going to assume he was vocally tired at Saturday night's press performance and perhaps it affected the rest of his work. I may be wrong, but I'd like to play it safe here. In their program notes the authors of How To Save The World And Find True Love In 90 Minutes say they chose the title partially as a homage to Frank Loesser, composer/lyricist of How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying. Though I certainly admire their taste, sitting through their hour and a half is what's really trying.
Photos by Carol Rosegg: Top: Anika Larsen and Michael McEachran
Center: Nicole Ruth Snelson, Kevin Smith Kirkwood and Michael McEachran
Bottom: Anika Larsen and Michael McEachran