FICTITIOUS The Musical is NOT about Arnold Schwarzenegger (to quote the show’s disclaimer announcement, “Yeah, right”). It’s about Hugh Diffindorfer, who emigrates from “Nonexziistia” to become the world’s best bodybuilder, the world’s top action movie star, and the leader of the free world. While this idea sounds ideal for a satirical musical comedy, the music works much better than the comedy.
The musical starts with President Diffindorfer (Harv Lester) confronting a nuclear challenge from Nonexziistia,theled by his hostile older brother. The crisis creates a dilemma for our nation’s first foreign-born president (thanks to a constitutional amendment), who must face the musical question “Where Will Your Loyalties Lie?” [Note: song titles are the reviewer’s best guess since the program does not list them.]
From that opener, the story flashes back to our hero’s emigration to the US in 1974 and follows his entire career, save for a 20-year flash forward conducted by the show’s “Theatre Jockey” (Andrew Lloyd Baughman). We follow Arnold’s, err, I mean, Hugh’s quest to accomplish all of his dreams (“I Want to Be That Man”).
The decision to cover so much of the character’s life is one of the flaws of the book, leaving not much time to develop other characters or relationships enough to earn the audience’s interest. It might have been better if more time had been given to Hugh’s relationship with his brother Gunnar (Matt Baughman) or his wife Sophia Tennedy-Schneider (Gillian Shelley), the one who’s not Maria . . . oh, you know.
Lester is an earnest and ambitious hero, but he’s given little to work with besides the accent and an excitable temperment. I’m surprised that the gym sequences didn’t include any steroids humor. There’s some quick hit parody involving a rival (who’s not Sylvester Stallone), but not much in the way of developed humor in the show. When you are working with essentially a two-dimensional parody character, much more inspired wit is needed to sustain the work, even if the humor is relatively broad.
On the other hand, the music demonstrates what a talented songwriter Tom Hyndman is. The songs are catchy and entertaining. Music Director Mary Sugar keeps the five-piece band tight and some of the songs have good group vocal arrangments. Karissa Swanigan also contributes some fun group choreograpy.
I have enjoyed similar productions from Landless Theatre Company and I really wanted to like this show more than I did. I tried my best to disregard the persistent sound problems that I hope will be remedied before the remaining performances.
More Fringe reviews here.