Erik Ransom’s New Play Is of Biblical Proportion
What’s the formula for a show with cult potential? Well, if one follows the formula for success inspired by The Rocky Horror Picture Show, gender conflict, cross-dressing, flamboyant costumes, and inventive musical numbers are all a good place to start. When you fold in a controversial, religion-based story line and in-your-face dialog you have that special formula that-when mixed appropriately-makes for a show worth worshiping: "Coming: A Rock Musical of Biblical Proportions."
Last week I attended such a show. I was invited by actor/writer -and sometimes activist-Reichen Lehmkuhl to join him in Philadelphia to see a friend of his (Erik Ransom - most recently playing "Rodney" in "My Big Gay Italian Wedding" at the St. Luke’s Theatre in NYC) in his new play produced by the Traverse Arts Project. I was promised that show was unlike any other musical I’d ever seen on Broadway - and that the trek to Philly was truly worth the investment. I was not disappointed.
"Coming: A Rock Musical of Biblical Proportions," is a darkly comedic look at the biblical Book of Revelation, that follows Josh Crenshaw (played by rising star Adam Hostler) a pious, doe-eyed singer/songwriter from Bethlehem, PA who auditions for "American Icon" in hopes of winning a place on the world-stage to spread his message of love and hope through song.
The virtuous Josh-who is unwittingly the second coming of Christ-is lured into the New York City world of vice, venality and vindication by the show’s lead character, Damian Salt-played by triple-hyphenate playwright, actor and lyricist Erik Ransom. The audience voyeuristically follows Josh, as he struggles to prevail against evil-through outrageous song, dance and costume-while the events of the Book of Revelation unfold in the present day context. The consciousness-raising finale is a battle between good and evil - a techno-mêlée that begun on the music charts.
The lead character, Damian Salt, played by Ransom, is the direct descendant of the King and Queen of Sodom & Gomorrah. Sin incarnate, there’s an odd, almost perverse, sexiness to Ransom’s Damian Salt that is appealing to men and women alike. The show’s message-based on the real-life impact religion has on who we love, sexuality, and an innate drive for stardom--is ultimately as moving as it is raucous and cynically funny.
"Coming" is weighed down with self-important messages, but it’s also splashily opulent. It strikes a universal chord with its wit and poignant dynamics. Its co-directors Mark Dahl & Bill Egan, capture Ransom’s vision of producing a "rock musical of Biblical proportions." The show’s costumes-by designer Bobby Fabulous-incorporate an array of textures colors and techno-styles that at times are so "fabulous" that they at times, upstage the performance. The costumes were allegedly put together on a shoe-string budget-but one would never know it.
This is a musical spectacle at its most vibrant, melodic and meaningful and its charm rests not only in its message, but in its stars. The low-budget, tongue-in-cheek performance was far more sagacious and polished that I would have expected, and is sure to emerge as a cult phenomenon.