It’s always fun to try to envision the future; to take an every day pastime such as the internet or TV or twitter or whatever else is the current “thing” and spin it out to its fullest realized interpretation either as a fantasy or a cautionary tale. Even better is to look at futuristic tales years later and chuckle a bit at what’s actually come true, and what is still never going to happen.
Tod Kimbro (music, book and lyrics) goes one better in My Illustrious Wasteland and not only envisions a futuristic America where Hollywood is the nation’s capital and politics is dumbed down, but he sets it all to a driving rock beat. Think Rent meets Brave New World … version 2.0.
The plot is familiar, but entertaining nonetheless – a young man, Mogs (Damian Shembel)who is oblivious to (but entrenched in) his cyber culture doesn’t think twice about it all until the status quo is threatened and he get fed some dark truth by “The Realists”. Of course, his heart is at steak too, since he’s fallen hard for Sunny (Erin Lindsey Krom) who is adorable as a button, and married to The President (played by composer Tod Kimbro) but some how can’t remember anything much about her past.
It’s a modern story but it’s a good old fashioned one too, with mad scientists who feed innocent citizens happy pills and implant them with computer chips; renegades hiding out in caves and plotting to overthrow the government, and a fantastic turn by Arden Kelly as Loretta – Mogs‘ all-but-catatonic mother – who spends her days lounging on the couch staring at a full sized holographic image of Mogs‘ dead rocker father, Lucifer Itch. At first she’s not much more than just a bit of funny scenery, a foot note to the story, but she slowly is brought center stage and her thread of the twisty plot reveals itself to be the one that’s strongly holding this bundle of wire together.
With her belting voice and her great range Ms. Kelly is just one of the stand-out characters of My Illustrious Wasteland. Ms. Krom (Sunny) is reminiscent of Kristin Chenoweth (though I’m sure I can’t be the first to point this out). With her small frame and her big voice she’s outstanding. The real star, of course, is Mr. Kimbro who not only was able to put a new twist on an old theme but actually brought out subplots at just the right moment in order for them to have their maximum impact. His compositions are driving, thumping, and pounding, his lyrics are clever, and he himself is a talented performer, almost bringing down the house with “Pushover” – a touching song that shows The President’s softer side.
With a storyline that will keep you engaged, a supremely talented cast that has the chops to perform this powerful score, and energetic numbers that will have you rocking in your seat, this is one not to be missed.
My Illustrious Wasteland
314 West 54th Street
New York, NY 10019
(C or E Trains to West 50th Street)
Saturday, Oct 10th, 2009 at 5:00 pm