a kate west review
book, music & lyrics by John Stothers; directed by Nick DeGruccio
at the Ricardo Montalbán Theatre, 1615 Vine Street, Hollywood 90028
contact (800)595-4849 or www.whatispilgrim.com; runs March-April 2006
Combine the retro-apocalyptic look of the films "Mad Max" and "Waterworld" with a modern rock musical and you get "Pilgrim", currently debuting as a world premiere at the Ricardo Montalbán Theatre in Hollywood. The main emphasis is in spectacle with an enormous revolving platform set, a full orchestra and chorus of singers and the odd and end acrobat. Less clear is the actual story line.
Tinker (Tom Korbee) and Anna (Jessica Rush) are the two young romantic leads who find each other in a dark world of oppression. Their world is hidden behind a great wall and run by the evil leather-clad Metsys (Jeffrey Stackhouse). The upper class Anna forces the lower class Tinker to marry her in order to escape her father Verhulst (Jim Blanchette) and Metsys. They hate each other at first sight, which of course means they later fall in love. Ten Bosch (Eric Anderson) is the sidekick who initially helps them but later betrays everyone. Hieronymus (Robert Patteri) is the mysterious narrator that Tinker encounters in prison, who leads him through a dream world and ultimately to freedom, where the Tinker becomes the Pilgrim and sheltered Anna becomes a heroine.
The characters exist in an unnamed place and time amidst a chorus of medieval-looking peasants hawking candles, ale and other wares. The dream sequences consist of billowing fog, choreographed sword fights (dangerously close to the front row) and amazing acrobats who leap and twist and even walk on stilts. Costume Designer Sharell Martin creates wonderfully creative period pieces for the townspeople, while the oppressors wear leather and feathers, creating a futuristic dark look. Set Designer Tom Buderwitz provides an amazing set, with high platforms and a revolving base. Lighting Designer Steven Young and Sound Designer Drew Dalzell create fantastic special effects, adding to the general wonderment. Musical Director Jason Nyberg and Choreographer Jose Walsh work together well in combination with Director Nick Degruccio to create a truly full-blown show of sensation and spectacle.
Unfortunately, John Stothers storyline leaves much to be desired.
Tinker/Pilgrim sends out his dreams to the townspeople via Ten Bosch (also the Printer) while incarcerated, hoping to inspire them to revolt and leave their confining world. He then escapes and in a climatic semi-tragic end, leads his people to the Promised Land, whatever that may look like. The problem is that the universality of such a timeless/nameless place leaves the audience a bit remote. The two leads, Tom Korbee and Jessica Rush, are fine, but rather vanilla, in contrast to the rest of the rugged cast. Also, some characters seem entirely unnecessary such as Verhulst (Jim Blanchette). Robert Patteri as Hieronymus and Eric Anderson as Ten Bosch are both fantastic and mesmerizing and the ensemble as a whole is quite good.
The musical numbers are a little long though, as is the whole show. In the end, however, the confusion and tediousness of the story and music are saved by the magnificent production values. Sounds like your typical Hollywood blockbuster.