Garrett Harris 12:36 a.m., June 19
John Patrick Shanley's 1990 movie script has a Scrooge-like, shocked into living arc. Joe Banks drags through his days under harsh fluorescent lights as an "advertising librarian." His only signs of life are aches and pains.
Hypochondria? Maybe not. A mysterious Dr. Ellison diagnoses "brain cloud," an incurable disorder so rare it barely exists. Joe's got six months to live, max. "You have some life left," says the Doc., "live it well."
Enter robber baron industrialist Samuel Graynamore. He wants to corner the market on "bubaru," a mineral needed for his superconductors. Most of the world's supply is on Waponi Woo, an island in the South Pacific with a volcano that, once per century, demands a human sacrifice.
Joe volunteers. Sure, why not? He'll "live like a king, then die like a man."
The script's such a slight fable it requires gobs of suspended disbelief, especially the serendipitous happenstances (like the raft somehow finding the right island). The movie never made it big, but if Lamb's Players hones and shapes their world premiere effort, it might in the friendlier format of a musical comedy.
Lamb's presents the basic scenes. The fidelity leads to occasional lulls (end of Act one; the scene on the raft; the songs between Joe and Angelica and then Joe and Patricia have a sameness).
The score, music and lyrics by Scott Hafso and Darcy Phillips, has several catchy tunes, but cries out for a signature song to pull the story together. The one now serving this purpose, "Away From The Things Of Man," is an after-the-fact number. It's what Joe and Patricia would do when the drama's done. Needed: a song to itallicize the drama itself.
That said, the production has many charms. Sean Cox, co-founder of Intrepid Shakespeare Company, can sing and dance. Who knew? And he does both well as the newly awakened Joe. Eileen Bowman shows remarkable versatility as Dede, Angelica, and Patricia (her rendition of "Dede's Song" a special treat).
A gruff, sprawling, hilarious John Rosen heads the supporting as Mr. Waturi, Joe's primeval boss, and as the Waponi Chief (whose costume and headress are decked with crushed Orange Crush cans - costume designer Jeanne Reith's imagination runneth freely). Jason Heil (Dr. Ellison), Antonio Johnson (Marshall), and Jim Chovick (Graynamore) do memorable work.
Like The Wizard of Oz, the musical goes from black-and-white to Technicolor. Along with Robert Smyth's smart direction and Jon Lorenz' musical direction, Michael McKeon's projections on a huge rear screen - an endless ocean, a tropical storm, a gigantic moon - are a major ally.
But everything points to Joe's leap into the lava. Can the creative minds at Lamb's get it right?
Mystical, curling smoke, two ladders, Nathan Peirson's red-on-red-in-red lighting, and Stephanie Celuska's booming sounds make the leap heroic.
Lamb's Players Theatre, 1142 Orange Avenue, Coronado, playing through July 29.