Even though I lived in San Diego for 9 years and have lived in Southern California since before its inception in 1970 I have never been to Comic-Con. But now thanks to the Hollywood Fringe Festival and Comic-Con The Musical I sort of feel I have. I was even given my own VIP lanyard as I entered the theatre. Nicholas David Brandt’s book captures the geeky, nerdy heart of Comic-Con attendees–from their dressing up in costume to their encyclopedic knowledge of their favorite films/TV shows and characters and to their stoic patience waiting in interminable lines to see and hear their idols. Brandt focuses on five main characters:
Allen Gray (Mark Lewis), a producer who is down on his luck and fresh out of ideas after the 27th sequel to his epic Oceanus has tanked;
DB Coates (Ryan Shrime), a sleazy producer who has the fourth highest rated vampire series on the CW and who usually steals other’s ideas for his own benefit;
Anna (Christine Lea), a vampire fanatic and DB Coates stalker who desperately wants a chance to write about vampires;
Jason (David MacLeod Haines), a nerd who has created his own comic book about a Super Christian Psychic Alcoholic Alien Detective and is trying to find his audience; and
Drew (Michael D’Elia) who has created a kick-ass costume with wings but has no character or story to go with it.
The Dungeon Master (Luke Adams) suggests Allen hold a pitch contest (having nothing to do with baseball) to get some new ideas. Anna, Jason and Drew work together and come up with characters and a plot which attract the attention not only of Allen and his long-suffering assistant Ivy (Jessica Gardner) but the larcenous DB who has teamed up with a real alien, a Flarg Princess (Mariah Rose Faith) who has a mind control hat and wants revenge for the 27 sequels about her home world.
Everything eventually gets sorted out for the best (Brandt’s book needs cleaning up, those last 10 minutes drag as everybody gets their happy ending). The cast is young and energetic. The individual voices are not always strong (D’Elia fares best) but as a group they sound fine. Laura Watkins’s music and lyrics are fun for the most part, incorporating a lot of the geeky charm inherent in the story. But there are a few numbers like “I Have Always Been a Douchebag” where she lets the vulgarity fly to the detriment of the show. She has written a great geek seduction scene song “Thor’s Hammer”. “Masquerade” really shows off costume designer Will Brattain’s skills. But her score, with 23 songs and a few reprises, needs to be cut back. Not every character, not every situation calls for a song. Gardner contributed some simple, fun and appropriate choreography. Her co-direction along with Brandt keeps the show moving along but at two hours without intermission, the show needs trimming.