The rollicking new musical “Bigfoot and Other Lost Souls” seem to have lost its way en route to a convincing final curtain. The fault is not the energetic, entertaining and stick-in-your-head tunes by composer Mark Hollmann of “Urinetown” fame, but a story with so many fat threads that author Adrien Royce can’t gracefully strand them together.
The main character, Bernie (Rachel Landon) is a Hollywood wannabe hired to hack out a script for a documentary about Bigfoot by a pair of sasquatch hunters (Eric Cover and Patricia Hull) in Northern California. In taking the job, she splits up with her boyfriend Max (Luke Bartholomew) and picks up Rudy (Enrique Bravo), who is pursued by two squabbling FBI agents (Jerry Demmert and Heidi Poet) and an earthy county sherriff (Margeaux Ljundberg) for long-past protest activities involving explosives.
So far, so good. Take that setup to a dozen members of the local Saturday aspiring writers coffee club and you’ll probably get three viable or even terrific endings.
The visual and verbal jokes dependably drew snorts from the audience — Max in a dress, a phone booth in the woods, Bernie trying to sing from a hospital bed in a state of sedation. And several big musical numbers were enthusiastically received. Hull’s excoriation of the most famous Bigfoot hunter, “Roger Patterson,” was a tour de force. Several ensembles were show-stoppers, including “Behind Every Man,” “You’re Not the Boss of Me” and the two dovetailing scenes that ended Act I (“Searching”) and started Act II (“Just One Footprint”). Lively performances by the singing actors and choreography by director Elizabeth Lucas and Ricci Adan made these parts worth going back for a second look.
But the play’s point, if any, proved as hard to find as Bigfoot herself, concealed in a forest of secondary elements that slipped into the context of the main action as poorly as a size 11 foot fits a size 9 hiking boot.
Actually, shoes — as symbols and plot devices — provided perhaps the most successful of these parallel themes. On the other hand, the insertion of two documentarians (Ryan Curley and Erika Rothchild) contributed so little that they might as well have been costumed stagehands.
The motif of unborn or abandoned babies, strenuously repeated, got shoe-horned into the finale in a way that made one wonder how the last two minutes sprang from the first two hours. Likewise, an Act I flashback to Bernie’s problems with a flawed birth control device — though very funny in darkly “Urinetown” kind of way — did not clearly connect to what followed. Royce says she originally wanted to write a script about the institutional cover-up of the dangers of the Dalkon Shield IUD.
That still may be what she’s trying to write about, but the audience following a fable about Bigfoot hunters, especially those too young to know about the Dalkon Shield, understandably may be confused.
Much of this back story should be explained early in the exposition, but there seemed to be mike problems on Sunday night that made it hard to understand words, sometimes for long stretches. There was no clear pattern to why. Sometimes ensembles lyrics were clearer than solo singers. Cover’s slow narrative “Saved” was perfectly understandable. Hull’s snarky observations came through while singing in Act I, but her speaking voice was distorted in Act II. If the acoustic challenges can’t be addressed, projected surtitles, like those used by Anchorage Opera, might be a good idea.
Nonetheless, the current performance from Perseverance Theatre is, in effect, the premiere of a musical that — with considerable reworking — may someday go to Broadway. (It originally debuted in Juneau last year and has yet to be staged outside Alaska.) And there are enough listenable lines and more than enough good music to make “Bigfoot” worth a highlights reel.
BIGFOOT AND OTHER LOST SOULS will be presented at 7:30 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, and 4 p.m. Sunday in Sydney Laurence Theatre. Tickets are available at centertix.net.
Reach Mike Dunham at firstname.lastname@example.org or 257-4332.