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.
FICTITIOUS the Musical
Book, Music, & Lyrics byTom Hyndman
Directed by Melissa Baughman
Produced by Landless Theatre Company
Reviewed by Steven McKnight
More Fringe reviews here.
Paula Y. Bickham says
Actually, Arts Lover, I was responding to your comments related to constructive criticism, and those of Mr. Davidson’s opinion as an audience member based on his expectations.
Arts Lover says
Paula, I do hope you realize my comment was not pointed at you. I thought your post was well put. I was focusing on the words expressed by Paul Q. Davidson.
I agree with your point but please feel free to read Mr. Davidson’s post and maybe you will see what prompted my comments. Maybe not. Thanks for the thoughts.
Arts Lover says
Paula Y. Bickham says
Arts lover, anytime you put something out there for public scrutiny or consumption everybody becomes a critic based on their expectations. Is criticism deemed “constructive” based on how a person expresses themselves, or based on what the recipient wants to hear?
Most audience members buy their tickets, go to a performance, and have certain expectations of that performance. They are not interested in the hard work put into the thing. They go for the results. Can you fault them for that? I personally find the inner workings of what goes into creating a show interesting having realized that the work is harder than hell. I had not always felt this way because I did not THINK about it then. But I still have my expectations just like those who could care less about inner workings. And so…we voice our opinions based on our expectations in they best way we know how. Peace.
Arts lover says
Paul I would just like to remind you of a key point of the Fringe:
Capital Fringe strives to provide outlets and opportunities for artists to self-produce in a NURTURING and SUPPORTIVE environment while exposing their work to patrons and the local, national and international media that they would never be able to garner on their own.
Constructive comments and cristism is surely needed to for any work to grow. Reviews and critics will always be a necessary part of the process as well. However, Its sad when audience and community members can’t just enjoy and respect the hard work put into a show. And some of the comments made by audience members like you are just hateful and go against everything the arts should be about. If you didn’t like an aspect of a production or saw something that needed improvement, there are much more mature and respectful ways of sharing that.
The reviewers of DCTS worked extremely hard to review all the shows in the fringe and I would like to thank them all for their professionalism, hard work, and constructive comments on all shows in the Fringe.
Paul Q. Davidson says
The sound problems weren’t remedied ever it seems, and that was only the least of this show’s problems.
The songs were very catchy, and the lead did have a decent voice.
BUT – who the hell directed this, and what were they thinking? There was no focus of action, no clarity in characters, and the acting was sub-par overall. I think a much stronger director would have been able to pull this show up from what it was. I agree with the review that there was too much story trying to be told, and not much of it actually comes through to the audience.
PLEASE hire a decent sound guy – even things aren’t working, someone who’s good at there job will figure out ways to make it not sound like CRAP every night and take the audience’s attention away from the show on to the sound.
I also agree- the band was too loud – ESPECIALLY given how many sound issues there were. Maybe if he was mixing so he could hear what the audience was hearing instead of his headphones (a theatre 101 basic skill) it would have been better.
It’s a shame because i agree there was some very catchy tunes here, totally ruined by bad direction and even worse sound.
Paula Y. Bickham says
I saw this show yesterday. There was nothing unique about the message it conveyed: that of pursuing your dreams. However, it’s a theme that needs to be replayed over and over in the home, TV, movies, theatre, and the visual arts, as people nowadays tend to become discouraged too easily. The music was wonderful and upbeat. The band was really, really, great. Every voice, with the exception of a couple, was strong. The dance routines were somewhat awkward which made it obvious that there were differences in dance skills. There were some sound problems with mics and projection.
Someone mentioned this is a family friendly show. I would agree, and would recommend it. Family ears don’t have to dodge the f-word, put up with sexual innuendo, people trashing and disrespecting one another, or brawling.
In a nutshell this show was just fun, corny jokes/puns, flaws and all. But this stuff will get fixed, I assume. I overheard a man telling another who was critical of one thing or another before the show began that “we’re just here to have fun.” So true.
Andrew Baughman says
Thanks Steven and everyone for your constructive feedback on the show and words of encouragement. Fictitious is still a work-in-progress, make no mistake. We’re big fans of Tom, and we’re honored that he chose us to put on a fringe workshop production to help develop the piece. I look forward to seeing where the play goes next!
One note to readers – Fictitious is a pretty family friendly show if you’re looking for that sort of thing at fringe. Quite the opposite of Diamond Dead and some other Landless productions, so fear not to bring the kids.
Dale Hill says
I dont’ want people to miss this becuase it was rated a 3!!
Its unusual and fun. I thoroughly enjoyed this show, and would have given in a 5 except for the sound difficulties. So at least a 4. I saw the first show, so I assume they will tell the band to play less loud, so we can hear the lyrics, adn they will fix the actor’s mikes which had them going in and out.
The songs were great, very singable. The acting aqnc voices were good, and the choreography. I honestly think whoever wrote this has very good potential to get something on broadway.
I also thougtht the humor, including some witticisms like wordplays worthy of the British, very clever.
I enjoyed this show despite some of its flaws. Of course there was sound problems, but this is Fringe, so I came to expect that. Hey – the Tony’s even had mic problems!
I LOVED the music and I found that everyone had a great voice eventhough the band, though impressive, were extremely loud.
The entire cast was fun to watch and the choreography worked very well too. The lead was great and he didn’t seem to “characterish” in his portrayal of “Arnold”. The female lead had an amazing voice and was funny in her smaller ensemble characters as well. The two Baughman’s were also fun to watch in their many parts
However, I thought the script was a little too long, especially for a 1-Act…They could cut a good 15-20 minutes and it would be a perfect fringe show. I agree with the reviewer and hoped for more story between “Arnold” and his brother. I found that to be the most interesting subplot.
Not a perfect show but not a bad one either…I would of given it a 3.5-4. Not a bad way to spend an afternoon (Or evening)
My biggest problem with this work was that the band was to loud. It drowned out the singing and the cast member headsets didn’t seem to work properly.
I thought this was a fun show I enjoyed it. I think its well written and the songs are good, not great bit good enough. I think with more work on scene transition, more character development this could be a show with promise. I sat through Legally Blond the Musical at the KC – with a more work, I think this a stronger and better show. It is a fun idea – that works.