My overall impression
I have to say…I really loved this crazy new rock musical. In my book, it’s the kind of show that embodies all that is best about the Fringe, with its unconventional characters, sly direction (by Aaron Lyons), pert choreography (by Michelle LaVon), and wicked twist on a relevant message. The musical balances broad comedy with a subtler kind of humor that sometimes takes an extra beat to sink in before you can fully appreciate it, so listen closely to the dialogue and the lyrics and you won’t be left behind.
The Werewolves of Hollywood Blvd is a collaboration between Michael Shaw Fisher (book & lyrics) and Michael Teoli (music & additional lyrics) with the Orgasmico Theatre Company, the same folks who brought Fringe favorites Exorcistic and Doomsday Cabaret to the festival in previous years. If you know their style, you know that this is a company that does everything full out and can deliver a punch line like nobody’s business. This show is no exception.
What I loved most about Fisher’s treatment of the story is that it has an underlying impish quality that bubbles throughout. The subject matter may be dark but the execution is playful and a helluva lot of fun. Plus, Teoli’s score is complex, electrically-charged, and filled with recurring character motifs and well-placed reprises that make the songs familiar quickly. He also has a way of hiding subtle melodic phrases that linger within a particular song, just for a moment, and if you can catch them before the music moves on, they’ll make you smile in recognition – dissonant Mary Poppins anyone?
Like the song says, “We’re all a little damnable…” especially those who scheme to get ahead in Tinseltown, and Werewolves takes a satiric look at the tipping point of one Hollywood agent (Kyle Nudo well-cast as Lawson Grace) who veers over the edge when his world spins out of control after losing his job. Now on the skids, he revisits a film script he had previously discarded and becomes swept up in the lives of three historical “werewolves” who come to life as he reads the story.
In flashbacks we see Peter Stump (David Haverty), Jacques Roulet (Michael Shaw Fisher), and Joana of Tarcouca’s (Leigh Wulff) tell of their pain, their sacrifices, and their difficult choices, and we see their increasingly mesmerizing effect on Grace as they urge him to release his own inner wolf. Haverty blazes through Stump’s inner struggle and Teoli’s music with a calculated charismatic intensity that never disappoints while Wulff’s warm alto voice adds a plaintive richness to her sad Slavic tale. Fisher’s fearlessly comedic Frenchman, with his horrible teeth, bawdy behavior, and hair-trigger responses, is absolutely riveting.
Jesse Merlin once again proves that funny is his middle name, this time bringing Lawson’s oddball boss, JP Governs, a devotee of Vlad the Impaler, to quirky life. Jim Hanna goes mental, Laura L. Thomas oozes Succubus sex appeal and Sarah Chaney returns as the reigning queen of the deadpan delivery. Alex Lewis and Hannah Johnson add a dose of hipster energy and Marc Jablon makes his own eccentric contributions to the comedy.
Those who like a solid rock musical with plenty of big sound will also find much to get excited about in Werewolves. Even from behind the set, Teoli’s 4-piece band owns plenty of stage time and makes a big impact on the production.
Not merely the raging rocker you might expect, this original musical contains more than meets the eye, but you’ve got to let it carry you away. Go with it and you’ll have a great time. Check it out and see for yourself.