Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Saved! The Musical, or How I'm filled with (Jesus') Love! Love! Love!

Saved! The Musical! (based on the Mandy Moore movie)

So Vance's recent crushworthy post on Aaron Tviet reminded me I hadn't churned out a review for Saved! The Musical, which I caught while it was playing but somehow neglected to comment upon. So here goes:

Mary Faber, Van Hughes, Aaonn Tviet, John Dossett, Curtis Holbrook, Celia Keenan-Bolger & Julia Murney.

Because coming from such great material (Mandy Moore throwing a bible while yelling: "I am filled with Jesus love!" is just a hint of what the movie was like) I expected a really edgy and fun musical (and also, a friend of the boyfriend's invited us to watch it). That said, it would seem that the material is clearly not as strong as the people involved (Keenan-Bogler, Faber, Hughes and Tviet have so much energy and are so talented one wishes the musical gave them more to work with). The story was kept the same: good girl Mary gets pregnant while trying to de-gay her boyfriend and has to deal with the consequences in the Christian High School during her senior year (Think Juno, only with commentary on the Evangelical movement). But early on one can tell that the real bite of the movie ("Roland, why do you always have to make everyone feel so awkward about your differently-abled-ness?") has been toned down when the pool scene in the movie (where Mary confuses a pool boy with Jesus) gets re-worked as Mary actually talking to Jesus. I know some changes need to be made to the material in adaptation but this particular change is evocative of the sort of work the musical does to undermine its edgy potential: it gets rid of the ambiguity and the power of Mary's choice and makes it instead a religious/faith choice. Indeed 'FAITH' runs all over the musical, and makes the message of the musical a bit less ambiguous than the movie's especially because the book (and Faber's performance) sweeten and tone down the Hillary "Of course Jesus was white!" Faye, which makes the show more heartwarming but really underscores the cathartic/rebellious act that she commits towards the end of the show. That said, the music (though uneven) is very catchy and poppy, and the choreography (which almost always included a wheelchair) was (if minimal) plot-serving.

- Funny how the promo video includes the best numbers. My favourite? I'm Not the Man I'd Thought I'd be. It is a strong number and actually taps into the emotional core of the story: this isn't the way I thought I'd dreamed up my life - and how that conflicts with religious faith.
- The staging. I thought it was very inspiring to make the stage curve that way giving a nice odd feel to the stage and made it able to accommodate Roland's wheelchair but also make for a nice Basketball court.
- The constant texting. Because it's so true - high school kids these days don't talk, just text.
- The gratuitous male nudity. Musicals need more of that. Especially with such a crushworthy cast.

Overall, I had a good time watching this show (cause I love the material and the cast is so talented) even if it was a bit uneven (the second act clicked much more organically than the first one). Sadly, it doesn't live up to the lovely satirical tone of the movie, which, one would have hoped was what initially attracted everyone to get involved in this production. B

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