HFF Review: Doomsday Cabaret! A Rock Musical of Apocalyptic Proportions
One of the great things about the Hollywood Fringe Festival is that it provides a center for all theatre folk to gather- and to so feel like they have a home, a family, and frankly, so many people with whom they have so much in common. That can be very important when you feel alone, marginalized, and told that art doesn’t matter, whether by your own family or the governmental and societal forces that seek to shove art off to the side and keep it from its proper healing functions. Hey, it’s called Fringe for a reason!
While I was at the Tent (many of us still called it the Tent even though it is no longer in an actual tent!) I enjoyed watching the hard work and the souls of those performing upon the cabaret stage, drinking at Bryan’s Bar (so named for our dear late friend), and conversing with all these artists at the same time. Besides feeling at home, another great function of this place is free press. Everyone is talking up their own shows and whatever good shows they have seen, while looking at the fliers and listening to the cabaret previews. Because of this, many of us see shows that we would not have otherwise, and get many patrons for our own shows that we would not have had.
So it was with Doomsday Cabaret, which I’d had recommended to me by reviewers as one of the best shows at Fringe. Now, I’d already been interested because of the theme- the 2012 apocalypse- but there were many shows with themes I would have loved to have seen. Shows satirizing and improvising upon the Old Testament, shows exploring the relationship between the triad of the Holy Trinity, shows exploring relationships between those of different faiths, and funny great shows put on by my friends. Yet showtimes conflict, and there simply isn’t enough time in the day- I was stretched too thin already producing my own show. I often just showed up to the Tent whenever I wasn’t exhausted and looked in the program, IF I were free, to see what was going on at that moment, as opposed to previous years when I’d created a whole color-coded spreadsheet. And then I’d rely upon my date and other reviewers for their recommendations.
And I was told I just couldn’t miss this show, and I think they were right. Now, first, Michael Shaw Fisher, the writer and mounter of the show, is a great guy with a real passion for real theatre and real art, and it shows. You want to be a part of that. Last year I’d enjoyed his show and told him so, although I had my criticism. This year’s show was much better, even though he had one of the same limitations. Luckily, this year he had a much better cast. The limitations were such that it was impressive he overcame them- I won’t go into the details, but I’ll just say his first plan for a play fell through and as such he had to put one together and rehearse it in the space of, I think, at most, a month. This year, the acting meshed so well that you wouldn’t think it.
The only criticism I would have would be the sound quality, which wasn’t even such a problem. It was a rock musical, and it sounded like a live rock gig- and anyone who has been to one of those knows that sometimes the lyrics don’t always get through. Instead, the music takes over. That’s fine, and I enjoyed it- I was smiling and exchanging excited smiles with my date through most of the show- the only thing is that I wanted to know more about the character progression and their plots, and I missed a bit of that. Also, the music was never grating or off-key or off-rhythm. It was truly enjoyable throughout.
Now, I think there are other laudable things about this play besides how well Michael pulled it off, with such great spectacle, so quickly. Let’s begin at the beginning: As I entered, a cast member asked me if I would like a decoration. You see, the premise of the show is that we’ve all gathered for the end of the world on December 21, 2012, and so it covers many of the theories regarding that, with representatives for them in the cast. As such, and not knowing anything more about the plot, I chose one of the symbols at random, the Mayan symbol, because it looked prettiest, and had it drawn on my forehead like the character who drew it upon me. Not everyone went for the forehead, and almost everyone washed their symbols off afterward- but they were glad I left mine on. I don’t know why people wanted to wash them off; I suppose humans just have this thing about looking weird and not wanting others to see them as such. I however love third-eye decorations, and was glad to absorb a bit of that energy.
I loved the way they discussed all the different theories about the end of the world both nakedly and with satire. The foibles of those who ascribe to such theories were exposed and explored, as well as some fair points that they had regarding what might be detrimental to our world, and what might help it out. It was fun and safe to explore all that in the environment theatre offers. Hooray for theatre functioning properly and truthfully!
The end of the world is a topic I enjoy. I don’t want to be a nut about it, although the play claims everyone is an asshole anyway. I used the topic in my own play, in a different fashion, in exploring what the end of the world might really mean, and I did so differently than the obviously silly and stereotypical claims out there in the world, or the straw men applied to so many. In the end, this play did the same and came up with much the same answer, yet explored and explained differently than mine. It gave a real and good answer, besides other fun ways that the play ended.
Finally, I will say that the best part about this play was the characters. I loved the way all the characters were so well-defined. Each had at least one spotlight moment to show off and most of them had growth. They were all unique and enjoyable. Besides that, the acting was great, and they all worked well together. It was great to see all the fun they created, and with one of my favorite mediums- a rock musical. There’s nothing like my favorite genre combined with the healing art of theatre.
Doomsday Apocalypse was extended for Best of Fringe and won the Best Musical/Opera Freak award, which it certainly deserved.