Review by GRAYDON SCHLICHTERJune 13, 2015 certified reviewer
My overall impression
First things first, if this is what a pop opera is I need more of them in my life. The music was catchy, the lyrics did their job without getting in the way, and the voices, these performers have pipes! The down and out producer, the rising star, The Almighty himself all turned in great performances worthy of commendation. But there is no way to talk about this show without spending a little extra time on the Devil Herself.
Saudia Yasmein (Satana) was simply incredible. Effortlessly bouncing from style to style and genre to genre, never out of step, her voice filled the space even when she was away from the microphone. Even when she wasn’t singing, Ms. Yasmein so embodied her role that you never forgot for a moment who was pulling the strings of the unfolding events.
Cast-mate Christopher Robert Smith (Devlin) was an excellent counterpart, whose arc was in some ways the through line of the piece. His desperation and hopelessness allow Satana to wield him in her plots. And it his choices, good and bad, that drive much of the story. Mr. Smith not only sings very well, but is able to layer acting and intention throughout his musical performing, never needing to sacrifice Devlin for the sake of a measure.
Sarah Kemnedy (Faith) brings us an ingenue that is refreshingly self-aware and not some naive waif. Faith knows what she wants and what she needs to do to get it. Faith is also were some of the humor comes from. Her musical choices provide more than a few laughs, not because she isn’t talented, she certainly is, the humor wouldn’t play if she wasn’t. Rather her commitment to those styles drive the humor. And while many of the choices that drive the show are Devlin’s, some of the most important belong to Faith.
Rich Brunner (Luis) gives us the Creator that many of us have imagined. One that means well, but is exhausted, frustrated, feels pulled in an infinite number of directions, and is ultimately pretty disappointed is us. Fortunately there are layers here to and Mr. Brunner’s impressive vocal styles and clear classical background work hand in hand to establish the Divine within the piece. And there is just enough tongue in cheek humor here to make him relatable to boot. A fine line to walk, but well-walked here.
As this has already gone on a bit long I will simply add that the choreography by Natalie Williams, executed primarily by herself and Kirby Herell was a wonderful flourish for this piece that I didn’t expect given the limits of the performance venue. On a related note, the use of a projection to handle most of the scene-setting was inspired as there would simply have been no way to achieve have as much conventionally in that space.
The nature of the venue does limit the show in some ways, but the performers deal admirably with those challenges and create a total package that had me tapping my toe from beginning to end, and required me to exercise a fair bit of restraint to keep from humming along throughout.