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A CurtainUp Review
The conceit is built on the flimsiest of grounds. We are at a secret meeting of redheads who are on a crusade to prevent the extinction of the gene that carries red hair in humans. The meeting is led by Victoria O'Hara (Katie Thompson), the founder of R.R.R.E.D., and her loyal assistant GJ Crockett (Matt Loehr). Breaking the fourth wall, these titian crusaders invite the brethren (that would be the entire audience) to support and bear witness to the natural superiority of redheads.
We learn that the impetus for organizing R.R.R.E.D. came about following a hair-raising prediction in 2005 (a.k.a. the great redheaded extinction theory). Here's the gist of the theory: The Oxford Hair Foundation (funded by Proctor & Gamble, the hair dye company) predicted that due to globalization and the continued intermixing of the world's population, by the year 2100, the recessive gene on chromosome 16, a mutation of the red hair causing MC1R protein would be extinct. (Got it?) Tough as it is to digest this scientific prediction at first listen—but be prepared to be tossed a lot more sonic mumbo-jumbo before the show plays out.
Apart from priming us on the 2005 genetic forecast on redheads, Victoria and DJ impart their personal sentiments about growing up with flaming locks and how they often had to listen to the barbed taunts (don't ask!) that the "many" (think blondes and brunettes) would hurl in their daily paths.
Victoria enlightens us on the meaning of the logo R.R.R.E.D. with some legerdemain at a flip chart. The letters, of course, are a sort of lionizing of the word red (I am red, hear me roar!) as well as an acronym for Real Redheaded Revolutionary Evolutionary Defiant.
According to Victoria, there are rules (>not suggestions) to be religiously observed by R.R.R.E.D.-ites. And the first rule, she insists, must be followed to the letter: "If it's not red, it doesn't get into your bed." The other rules presented are equally zenophobic and punctuated with sex jokes that would make a truckdriver blush.
The main problem is that the dual protagonists make too much of a little theory. The sturm und drang they unleash seems way out of proportion to the scary news.
Unfortunately, the musical numbers don't rescue the show from its illogical plot. The songs are collectively touted as an Instructional Tutorial Musical Lesson and are performed, in turn, in a torchy or campy cabaret style.
Matt Loehr winningly sings the opening song "G. J.'s Seed Sack" which delineates GJ's persona as a cross between a Johnny Apple Seed figure and the biblical Adam. However, the melody is far too sing-song-ey to really take off. Perhaps the most memorable song of the show is the titular "Red" A.s robustly sung by Thompson and Loehr as an overlapping duet, it fleetingly clarifies the show's why and wherefore.
The self-referential zeal of R.R.R.E.D. pauses midway through when a Special Guest materializes on stage. On the Tuesday I attended Frankie Grande (Rock of Ages) arrived on the scene like a breath of fresh air. Curiously, he ends up becoming the equivalent of a Trojan Horse as he cleverly pulls the rug out from beneath Victoria and GJ's pretensions that all redheads are divine. In fact, Grande shared his personal encounter with a pint-sized carrot-top, who happened to have more than a few demons in her personality.
Director Andy Sandberg has two talented principals in Thompson and Loehr, with supporting performers Marissa Rosen and Kevin Zak, who also make a brave effort with thin material. But this quirky musical clearly needs a better book and more memorable songs to make it elevate. Except for the testimonial given by the Special Guest Frankie Grande, it pretty much flatlines.
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R.R.R.E.D.: A Secret Musical
Book by Katie Thompson, Adam Jackman, and Patrick Livingston
Music and Lyrics by Katie Thompson
Directed by Andy Sandberg
Cast: Katie Thompson (Victoria O'Hara), Matt Loehr (GJ Crockett), Marissa Rosen (Stephanie Hicks) and Kevin Zak (Craig).
Sets: Charlie Corcoran
Costumes: Michael McDonald
Sound: David Sanderson
Lighting: Jake DeGroot
Hair & wig design: John D'Orazio
Choreography: Shea Sullivan
Music Director: Rodney Bush
Stage Manager: Gregory Fletcher
DR2 Theatre, 103 E. 15th St.
For more information on tickets and showtimes, visit online at dr2theatre.com
From 7/28/18; opening 8/20/18; the original 10/21/18 closing date has been changed to 9/11/18.
Running time: 1 hour; 25 minutes with no intermission.
Reviewed by Deirdre Donovan based on press performance of 8/28/18
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