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A modern "Faust" and a musical fairy tale fail to live up to their full potential in their Fringe debuts.

Hollywood Fringe Fest Theater Review: ‘Sin: A Pop Opera’ and ‘Annabella’

Sin: A Pop Opera

SinThis show should really be called Sin In Concert, as its bare-bone staging feels more like a concert than a full-fledged theatrical production.

It’s the old devil-made-me-do-it story with a few twists: Satana (Saudia Yasmin), who is divorced from her creator, Luis (Rich Brunner), arrives on earth in search of souls. She enlists the services of Devlin (Christopher Robert Smith), a down-on-his-luck record producer, to help lure innocent pop wannabe Faith (Sara Kennedy) into her clutches. But when newly minted poster Faith slips into the typical drugged-out rock and roll downward spiral, Devlin seeks to intervene and pull her back from the brink of damnation with the help of Luis, much to Satana’s chagrin.

Written and composed by multihyphenate Scott Claus, Sin is fun when it’s setting up its initial concept, but once the story is laid out, it swiftly becomes repetitive. And when the staging is so skimpy, with little to attract the eye, the music must be able to draw us in. Alas, even though Claus provides us with a selection of styles and tempos, the lyrics merely repeat the themes already set up at the beginning of the piece and it becomes exhausting.

On a positive note, Yasmin is a talent to watch for. With her devilish eyes and terrific pipes, she brings a delightful intensity to her role. Smith and Kennedy also deliver the musical goods, but Brunner brings an oddly stentorian mien to his performance — I guess that’s because he’s God. Dancers/choreographers Kirby Harrell and Natalie Williams must have excellent aerobic systems, as they manage to keep dancing and thrashing wildy in the background throughout the entire production.

Finally, Sin takes itself far too seriously given the material. Aside from a couple of genre spoofs and Yasmin’s slithering succubus, Claus gives it all an unnecessarily ponderous reverence. A lot more humor and campiness would’ve been most welcome.

Sin: A Pop Opera plays the Hollywood Fringe June 23, 26 and 28 at Three Clubs, 1123 Vine Street. Tickets can be obtained on the Fringe site.

Annabella

Another operatic opus debuting at the Fringe is Annabella, an operetta with a book, music, and lyrics by Sam Johnides and Tony Gonzales. The synopsis of the show makes it sound rather enchanting — “A traveling puppeteer finds love with a reclusive witch of the woods, but madness and betrayal break this fragile bond.”

AnnabellaWhen first we meet the puppeteer Lorenzo (Tony Gonzales), he introduces his marionettes (November Christine, Amanda Rae Troisi, John Haukoos), all of whom have a slightly sinister demeanor and seem like they could come to life spontaneously. When he is waylaid by highwaymen, he is rescued by Valentina (Melinda Ehrlich) who takes him back to her cottage in the woods and her ward, Annabella (Kimberly Hessler) heals him with her magical powers. But even as Lorenzo and Annabella fall in love, the evil Valentina plots to have him for herself.

Even with bare-bones staging and a bit of costuming and paint for the marionettes, this piece had the potential to be something really interesting, but the lack of incident and a ponderous, repetitive score quickly become tiring. All the songs seem to be in the same key and the same rhythm, and they all end in the same crescendo. Furthermore, the lyrics constantly dwell on yearning and loneliness and unrequited love without really helping to develop the characters. Sadly, when something dramatic finally happens during the final moments of the piece, it’s all become rather risible.

That said, the performers all acquit themselves well; one just wishes they had memorable songs to sing.

Annabella plays the Hollywood Fringe June 16, 20, 21, 23, 26 and 27 at the Lounge Theatre, 6201 Santa Monica Blvd. Tickets can be obtained on the Fringe site.

 

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About Kurt Gardner

Writer, critic and inbound marketing expert whose passion for odd culture knows no bounds.

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