the Underscore Ensemble
& Laura Stratford
Directed by Alex Higgin-Houser
Produced by Underscore Theatre Company
At Chicago Dramatists
Not ready for the stage new musical is filled with fatal flaws
I sure do applaud the efforts of a new ensemble, Underscore Theatre Company, as the have mounted a promising new musical –PrOne -The Casting Couch Musical Comedy. Unfortunately, their collective efforts were more ambitious than their theatrical skills. By far the best element of PrOne is the music. It contains a pastiche of styles ranging from classic Broadway to patter songs to gospel to Broadway pop-rock. There are ballads, comic tunes and strong anthems. Unfortunately, the raunchy lyrics, which many times were hard to understand due to mic problems and slurred diction by singers, were below the promise of the show’s score.
PrOne – The Casting Couch Musical Comedy is a foul-mouthed crude dark unfunny comedy about a star-struck girl who wants to get into film so badly that she was willing to perform oral sex on camera with the casting director in order to get into film. This tasteless musical glorifies porn and masturbation as it lowers the world of the Broadway musical down to crass area of basic sexual urges. One could argue that if the show was extremely campy filled with loads of nudity that it could make for an exotic musical experience. But, sense, it only lightly uses parody, it comes off as simply silly and tasteless.
But, by far, the elements that sink PrOne are the production values. The set design cramps the small Chicago Dramatist enough that the under rehearsed choreography looked stilted with many dancers out of step. The manic ambition of choreographer Jon Martinez overwhelmed the abilities of his ensemble that found too many dancers on stage quite often.
The singing from the main players was below par with several females slurring their words thus diminishing the quality of the lyrics. The sound problems from mics cutting out plagued several songs. Stronger leads that can articulate tricky, biting lyrics, would serve the show well. Running at over two and half hours, PrOne begs for some judicious cuts and it would benefit fro a clearer focus. As it now plays, PrOne has too many songs that don’t contribute to moving the show along.
The production is a raw work-in-progress that appears under rehearsed and under developed. The creatives need to rethink the piece and decide if they want a cute raunchy musical or a full blown porno musical. It is difficult to be moderate when singing to porno. The sheer nature of such a topic begs extremes with razor-sharp vocals and a complete cast of sexy knockout looking boys and girls. I do applaud the effort here. With a smart, varied score PrOne has the most important element of a musical (the music) to build on. They now need build upon that. As now presented it is not ready for an audience.
Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast
Date Reviewed: August13, 2013
At Chicago Dramatists, 1105 W. Chicago Ave., Chicago, IL, www.underscoretheatre.org, tickets $25, Thursday thru Saturday at 8 pm, Sunday at 7pm, running time is 2 hours, 30 minutes with intermission, through September 7, 2013