YOU WON’T BE RAPTUREDBUTITSNOT A NIGHT IN HELL*This review first appeared on www.thechamberpot.org* Pastor Malachi (Al Rahn) usurps the pulpit from his mentor, Jedediah, in RAPTURE, a silly Sunday morning “church” service that pokes fun at sin with poppy, enjoyable songs like “Sinners, Every One”. While stumbling through the devotion, Malachi’s ex-girlfriend and Jedediah’s daughter, Rebecca, pops up from the congregation (aka the audience) and reveals she’s broken Malachi’s heart by suddenly abandoning him for Guatemalan mission work. Later, we learn of Malachi’s “troubled past” and the horror of hypocrite pastor Jedediah. Will Rebecca and Malachi find forgiveness as the raging waters of their past threaten to sweep them away?
Dan Frey (Book, Lyrics and Director) has a knack for catchy lyrics but unfortunately, the book is weak – making RAPTURE a medley of songs loosely strung together by the Protestant service structure rather than a strong narrative. Additionally, the lyrics make simple jokes instead of develop character and plot. As a director, Frey’s work with the actors is admirable but his staging is weak and overall tone of the piece is confused. Are we supposed to take the climax seriously? If so, it doesn’t work. If not, the comedy needs to be hit much harder in the acting. Ben Stanton (Composer, Musical Director, “Ben”) does a wonderful job composing and directing the music – the songs are lively and the actors as well as the band (Jeremy Burgan, Geoff Gross, Derrick Wong and Nick Monahan) sound great. Choreographer, Jen Oundjian, sprinkles the show with straightforward musical theatre bits. The only designer credited is costume designer, Sarah Schuessler, who’s costumes are just right. Set, lighting and sound departments could all use a designer to help tell the story. The microphone’s crack and the house lights flicker on and off with a strobe effect throughout the show. I can easily forgive that as “Fringe madness” but nonetheless, it was distracting.
The stand-out of this production is leading actor Al Rahn. He is fantastic! Charismatic, funny, talented and sweet – it is difficult not to fall in love with him. His pure, Midwestern boy charm and solid, strong voice are so potent I forgave the fact that he is completely unbelievable as a previously addicted to crack, prostituting, homeless youth and surrendered to his adorableness. Thia Schuessler feels as though she has been plucked out of a Christian Reformed Youth Group in Illinois and plopped on the stage. Her portrayal of the Preacher’s daughter Rebecca is honest, real and honeyed without being too syrupy. If you enjoy light musical theatre without the traditional bells and whistles – check out RAPTURE.