Charles Manson and the Tate-LaBianca murders in the summer of ’69. Where ’69 meant more than just a year. Where free love and drugs were rampant. Where a group of lost people found the charismatic maniacal Manson someone to hook onto to, to be beholden sexually to him alone and where killing others became their norm.
Who would write a musical about this? Why would they write a musical about this? Curiosity brought me to the Off – Off Broadway Kraine Theater 85 East 4th Street to see this wild and interesting take on the time, the murders and the Manson Family.
It hails from Chicago where in the 1990’s it became a cult hit with book, music and lyrics developed through improv by the members of Annoyance Theater (including The Office’s Kate Flannery). It does have that improvisation spirit underlying the 80 minute production but Manson, the musical offers a lot more.
Whereas Hair, that other hippie musical, professed peace along with sex and drugs – Manson: the musical professes subservience, random killing and entertaining its audience with a sly satiric take on not only Charlie and his family but on their victims and his professional acquaintances as well.
Sharon Tate (Kerstin Porter) is a self possessed egomaniac surrounded by sycophants and hedonistic revelers at 10050 Cielo Drive, the house that Doris Day’s son Terry Melchior lived in with Candice Bergen. The Terry Melchior that refused Charlie a recording contract. Moral: Don’t cross maniacal budding musicians. The La Bianca’s are a feuding mess of a wop couple (Leal Vona & Cheri Paige Fogleman). Their slow motion strobe lit stabbings are done, do I dare say, in good taste?
Presented in a documentary format, the narrator (Melissa Ciesla) bookends the show in a serious demeanor. Her interviews with The Beatles, The Beach Boys and the Monkees are comic highlights. Manson: the musical is sometimes very funny with its mocking manner, sometimes uncomfortable and always sexual with some out of the blue tap dancing done by fellow Manson follower Tex (Kevin Paul Smith – who is someone to watch) and interesting choreography (Tiffany Herrioett).
The members of the cast play various roles and double on instruments. Which include a cello (an excellent Serena Ebony Miller) drums, percussion, guitar, vibes and glockenspiel. Special mention must be made of the naïve and innocent Linda (Candace Janee) who joins up with the family getting much more than she bargained for. Nice job.
But the show would not be able to exist without the extraordinary performance of Alexander Dunbar as the barefoot madman Charlie – the “it” man. He has that extra special “it” that draws you into his world. He is a charming, challenging sex machine and can change his mood in a heartbeat. Anything and nothing can set him off. He is Charlie. Watch out. You are going to hear much more about him. In fact, you should go see him in Manson: the musical which has been nicely put together by director Russell Dobular.
It would be very intriguing to have this talented group tackle another family. The Bush Family.
SUNDAYS at 7pm. Tickets $18.00 (15.00 for students) 212 352 3101