With Charles Abbott directing and co-writing the book you would think Ultimate Man would have wings as a show and fly. Sadly this is not the case. The book which tries to be funny is not. The show which also tries to be part spoof, part politically ironic and part musically entertaining fails on all accounts and it does so for over two hours! To make matters worse the music by Alastair William King with King, co-writer Jane Edith Wilson and conceiver of the piece Paul Gambaccini is a bore and tuneless with the exception of “The Story of Joe” and “I’m In Love and I Want You To Know.”
The plot is not even smart enough for five year olds if they got the political barbs or entertaining enough for adults. We start as cartoonist Joe Barino (Alan Gillespie) has lost his umph for writing a successful cartoon series due to the death of his brother. In seeing his brother in the guise of his hero Ultimate Man (Michael Glavan) he has created scenarios that his cast of characters and his power hungry agent Buffy Lamar (Gayle Samuels) are not thrilled with. When he kills the hero’s girl Cathy Cookie (Sidney Fisher), Ultimate Man smashes through to the real world to talk some sense into Joe. In the meantime Joe meets and falls for Buffy’s niece Beth (Joyah Love Spangler ) who wants to help Joe fight the establishment, as the villain Rex Ringer (Douglas Ladnier) breaks through to conquer the world. Joe, gets unblocked and everything finishes to be tied up in a shinny red cape.
Every charter is written like a two-dimensional cartoon character. The choreography by Will Taylor is amateurish with everything but some of the performances coming off as trite.
What is good about this show is most of the cast. Mr. Gillespie has a powerful voice and needs to be singing more rock than this loosely based 50’s and 60’s dribble. Mr. Ladnier needs to be more villainous, but sings well. Ms. Samuels is the week link missing every moment and vocally not sound. Ms. Fisher is a triple threat but it is Mr. Glavan and Ms. Spangler who embody their roles and mange to squeeze three-dimensional performances. Bravo for over coming the material.
Who Ultimate Man’s audience is I do not know. Since this show has been kicking around since at least 2000 I would say it is time to retire this issue.
Ultimate Man: Pearl Theatre, 555 West 42nd St. 7/22 @ 5pm, 7/23 @ 9pm and 7/26 9 pm.