Performing Arts: Theater
August 20, 2014
“I’ll be damned,” stage whispers Damian Salt, as the first drops of a meteor shower commence Armageddon. Lavish behemoth Erik Ransom offers an antichrist not often seen, but, to the demographic satirized, might as well have been all along. Alice Cooper’s facepaint, Bowie’s showmanship, and Frank-N-Furter’s sleaze crown Damian a hub of hedonistic spoils in Coming: A Rock Musical of Biblical Proportions. Christ’s second coming isn’t much without the guest of honor, but Ransom makes the antagonist the superstar, redeeming him, and, thereby, us.

Our antichrist is also the show’s sole creator. Initially reading as a systematic perversion of all things Christian, the modern society parallels are intelligently constructed. Josh Crenshaw, from Bethlehem, PA, is a charismatic, morally sound pop star with a message of love. Mary Magdalene plays a more prominent romantic role as former porn star, Magda Plajova. Damian reigned the charts before Josh and uses the image-shattering secret of Magda’s past for sabotage before engaging with him in a blasphemous love affair to end all time - literally.

Tongues are so deeply in cheek that, musically, Ransom cannot afford sincerity in sentiment. The score is largely pop songs and ballads, which, while fitting, lack tunefulness for meandering chord tones above repeated harmonies. There is, however, strategic play with genre. “Hell on Earth,” celebrating the God’s eternal severance from the living, is a jubilant gospel chorus, with the nerve to end on an “amen” cadence. These tactics have been done, but Coming pushes further. For a cast of eight, the choreography created between Aurora Black and director Rachel Klein feels more embodied. In keeping with the shtick, the movement is primarily burlesque in nature. At the top of Act II, Magda, a Buddhist, belts a soliloquy from her yoga mat, timing her verses with a vinyasa flow. This kind of work thrives on shameless performers; the whole ensemble exceeds the qualification.

When Josh chooses to be with Magda for the end of the world, Damien, dejected, sings a ballad asserting, “You were what I made of you,” binding together the creation story, society’s perception of its idols, and romantic jealousy. Refashioning Jesus as an underage pop star, the notion that believers perhaps create their deities in their own images is hard to shake. It doesn’t hit you until afterwards that this extravaganza actually grapples with Epicurean ideology; the irreverent puns, over-the-top costumes, and adaptation are all refreshingly unprecious, laid out simply and boldly. Seek your pleasures as if everyone is watching.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Jonathan Matthews

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