Jul 112013

“Sasquatched!: The Musical” is the type of show you really want to like and that takes this production a long way. It’s meant to be a silly tongue-in-cheek adventure as an all-American family, two self-absorbed reality TV hosts, an eco-friendly park ranger, and a pair of local bar owners in need of a business boost pursue the mysterious Big Foot in a national park in the Pacific Northwest.

This show was chosen in this year’s “Next Link” process and is a great example of the way NYMF encourages new voices in musical theatre. Phil Darg, a liberal arts instructor at a Minnesota technical college, wrote the book, lyrics, and music. Unfortunately, Mr Darg could use a little help with the book and the lyrics. While the current script has the basic structure for this to be an amusing farce and it has a number of wonderful moments of old fashioned fun, there just are not enough of those moments to carry a two-act musical. It’s safe to presume that the staff at NYMF have helped Mr. Darg shape his work, but a play doctor with a knack for one-liners and cultural satire could make the book (and lyrics) the type of romp that Mr Darg clearly intends.

In this incarnation, Big Foot is a lovable daddy-type who speaks perfect English and is determined to correct the myths about his species. He is also quick to correct anyone who refers to him as “Big Foot” — he “prefers to be called ‘Sasquatch-American.’” If only the script of this show had more pokes at cultural identity like that moment of beastly PC, this show would live up to its potential.

Each of the characters are drawn with an appropriate level of exaggeration: the over-protective parents of a rambunctious son, the country hick who discovers the Sasquatch, the journalists who don’t mind twisting the truth for a good story, and the couple that own the bar and seem to be more interested in doing each other than doing their business. There is even a delightful burgeoning romance between the dedicated female park ranger and a nerdy seismologist.

Donald Brenner’s direction does everything possible to milk whatever humor there is in the script. When the text cooperates, the show is quite entertaining and joyful. This type of comedy requires the actors to play their scenes very broadly, and most of them succeed. But since most of the lines fall flat, much of the show comes off looking like a community theatre production gone wild.

The music is pretty traditional musical fair — and better than many new shows written in this style. But again, the lyrics just don’t have the necessary punch. Mr. Brenner has done an admirable job in staging the musical numbers and several are darn good fun.

The cast works hard to make the necessary silliness of the plot work. Ryan Dietz, as the country-bumpkin camper who discovers the Sasquatch, is particularly good. While NYMF gives “Next Link” participants $5,000 toward their production costs, this show was largely financed by friends and family and the physical production is fairly simple but effective.

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