The Class Act Players are young, talented, and ambitious to an almost irritating degree. With SuperNOVA, the college-aged troupe presents their second full-scale original musical in as many years. Game respect game.
I saw (though did not review) their last effort at Fringe, the gleefully hokey depression-era Dust to Dust. While I can’t say I liked that first production, I came out with a sense that this was a focused group of young artists with big dreams and ambition to spare. They simply needed time to hone their craft, and find a more original voice. SuperNOVA represents a step forward in both regards, with better orchestration, more timely storytelling, and an appropriately looser vibe.
Where Dust to Dust was intentionally retro, SuperNOVA is pointedly current and inside-baseball. Its story concerns precocious college student Scott (Max Snyder) who, when rejected by William & Mary’s graduate business school, goes with Plan B: lead Northern Virginia in a revolutionary movement to form their own state. Hell hath no fury like upper-middle class white privilege denied. His incredibly patient Southern Virginian girlfriend Naomi (the multi-talented Sarah Marksteiner) urges caution, while Scott is egged on by a mysterious revolutionary Mailwoman (Rachel Ingle).
That’s a pretty ripe premise, though perspective is still a problem for the Class Act Players. With a cast of over a dozen, SuperNOVA’s myopic focus on the problems of privileged white Northern Virginians hints that the Class Act crew could use an infusion of more diverse points of view. One could say that the company has set out to skewer that sense of entitlement but too often the jokes feel like they are punching down, which at times makes the show less satirical than obnoxious. For instance, at one point on his mission Scott makes it to the Oval Office where he finds the President (Jesse Pollack) who in this world is white, yet not long after there are references to President Obama, an unfortunate and telling breakdown of logic.
Written by Alex Bulova and Sarah Marksteiner
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On the other hand there are plenty of strong roles for women, and they even brought their own sign language interpreter along for their pre-show curtain speech. A very cool nod to their hosts at Gallaudet.
The composing and writing team of Alex Bulova, Sarah Marksteiner and Chris Mayhew show a marked improvement all around, though sometimes the cast doesn’t quite have the flow for raps they throw in. Mayhew’s a very good guitar player, and his compositions have improved markedly in a year. I think he has found a better niche in rock musicals.
Marksteiner is a talent to watch, pulling duty here as performer and writer, and I was impressed with her costume design skills as well. The band was looking especially stylish. There’s a real nice collaborative vibe here, with the production team pulling several duties. Director Alex Bulova keeps things moving a nice pace, and also nearly steals his own show in a supporting role as a nervous state delegate who gets the night’s best song by far.
Given how much they have improved in just a year, I’m optimistic about the Class Act Players. With a little more seasoning, and perhaps opening themselves up to a wider cultural perspective, this company is going to develop nicely.
SuperNOVA . Book and Choreography: Alex Bulova and Sarah Marksteiner, Music and Lyrics by Alex Bulova, Sarah Marksteiner, and Chris Mayhew. Director: Alex Bulova; Music Direction: Chris Mayhew; Sound Design: Chris Mayhew, Andrea Matten, Hannah Grudi, Lighting Design/Stage Manager: Kyle Ronyecs; Costume Design: Sarah Marksteiner. Produced by The Class Act Players . Reviewed by Ryan Taylor.
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