Believe in Me… A Bigfoot Musical
nytheatre.com review by Robert Kent
August 15, 2004
Adrien Royce and Michael Holland's Believe in Me…a Bigfoot Musical may not sway anyone's opinion regarding Sasquatch. However, it is evidence that new, original American musicals are not an endangered species.
Based on Royce's stage play Everything That Happens in the Woods Is Real, the likable tuner, set in 1980, tells of Arlene (Christina Norrup), an idealistic, feminist filmmaker who reluctantly becomes involved in a Bigfoot documentary at the suggestion of Kerry (Danielle Pratt), a sassy lesbian co-worker, and two insurance-salesmen-turned-producers. After "soul-less, spineless" TV-land types dismiss her movie-of-the-week about IUDs saying, "this is Hollywood not Uterinetown," Arlene joins a brood of quirky country folk in their search for the elusive abominable snowman. Between dubious yeti "sightings," the filmmaker befriends a Bigfoot expert and his wife (H. Clark Kee and Audrey Lavine), a Native American artist (David Gurland), a lesbian trapper (Kelly Kinsella), and Rudy Guevara ("as in Che") (Jamie LaVerdiere), a vitamin-store clerk with an FBI agent in hot pursuit of him. Although the actors are challenged by their thinly drawn, stock characters, and some are simply miscast, all enthusiastically execute Drew Geraci's swift, resourceful direction and Erin Coakley's minimal choreography. Throughout, Norrup is a charming leading lady and is nicely supported by Lavine, Kinsella, and Gurland in standout performances.
Economically staged, Geraci's production ideally showcases Royce and Holland's work, ambitiously billed as the musical that Michael Moore and Stephen Sondheim would write, if they wrote a musical together. Among the show's chief assets are Holland's songs, particularly the ballads: "From Now On," the titular "Believe in Me," "Out of the Darkness," and the "Color of the Winds" doppelganger "White Bird Flies Alone" (hauntingly sung by Gurland). The very versatile Holland skillfully parodies theatre's best composers and lyricists: Stephen Schwartz, John Kander and Fred Ebb, Jonathan Larson, and of course Sondheim. Royce's book, filled with conveniently contrived plot twists and references to government cover-ups, is not as developed as Holland's score. Characters are mostly one-dimensional and several moments, particularly Arlene's discovery of the "truth" about Bigfoot and the final scene, set twenty years later, seem underwritten. Overall, Royce's salvageable book and Holland's adept score combine into an untamed yet entertaining jumble of styles: romantic comedy, political melodrama, camp and social satire. Once this Bigfoot musical finds itself, it undoubtedly will be something to believe in.