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A CurtainUp Review
How to Save the World and Find True Love in 90 Minutes

In this book I’m reading, the author says there are only two emotions in life: love or fear. —Julie
Oh, that’s deep. —Miles
'Conversations with God' is a profound book. —Julie
I read it. Here’s what I want to know. How come there are grammatical errors in God’s part of the book? — Miles

Anika Larsen and Michael McEachran in How to Save the World... Credit: Beth Kelly (Photo: Carol Rosegg)
A terrorist is on the loose at the United Nations. His plan is to turn the general assembly into a vomitorium, an idea that you may agree is hardly surprising if you keep up with current events. That his plan, however, makes use of the contents of a jar of peanut butter may indicate the tone of originality in the new musical How To Save The World And Find True Love In 90 Minutes, an escapee from the New York International Fringe Festival 2004.

Apparently it took a couple of years for the collaborators —Jonathan Karp (book and lyrics) and Seth Weinstein (music) — to work out their show's kinks for a more mainstream Off-Broadway audience. Unfortunately it takes only about five minutes to see that their efforts may be most fully appreciated by their immediate family members and those whose taste runs to the sophomoric and idiotic — an example of the latter: a cluster of young people seated in the rear over-reacted with screams and cheers to every song as if they were attending the second coming.

It is rather painful to endure the musical's pervasive inanity. Its plot, or what passes for one, centers around the attempts by Miles Muldoon (Michael McEachran), a geek who works in the UN book store to stop the maniacal "He" (also played by McEachran clad in leather and with a foreign accent) from perpetrating a global catastrophe. Taking his cue from a typical Danny Kaye film, McEachran actually has a rather funny song that parodies Kaye's classic patter style. The opening lyrics, "There’s Afghanistan, and Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikstan, Namibia, Bolivia, Zambia and Gambia. . . " bring memories of Kaye’s famous tongue-twisting aria "Tchaikovsky." His Miles is afraid of everybody and everything and even "afraid that Madonna is going to adopt me."

Miles is catapulted into action when he is hit in the head by a piece of flying fruit, actually a melon thrown by Guatemalan protestors. The melon induced injury leaves him able to read minds. (I wonder if he might not have stopped the show, if he could have read mine). Fortunately, depending upon how you see it, Miles is empowered to save the world by a singing and cavorting Greek chorus (Stephen Bienskie, Natalie Joy Johnson, Kevin Smith Kirkwood), who give him courage ("You’re part of God’s infinite plan") and who, as required, morph into various ethnic-attired ensembles,. Convinced by the Greeks that he's " the man for this season", Miles prefers daydreaming about escaping his book store milieu for a job hobnobbing with the international community which would bring him closer to a seductive diplomat named Violet (Nicole Ruth Snelson) and cover girl for Disarmament Quarterly.

Should we be surprised that Violet has the hots for the mysterious and dangerous He and that Miles barely notices the adoring eyes of Julie (Anika Larsen), a slacker who tries to make him see that the wrongheadedness of his romantic pursuits ("Condoleeza Rice is not a realistic possibility.")

In fairness to the hard-working performers, they never tire in their attempt to transcend material that should be laid to rest. There is also a validation of talent that finds its way to the surface in one dance number in which McEachran and Snelson do a comical bump and grind semi-adagio. Alas, it is the best work of the evening by director/choreographer Christopher Gattelli. While the performers may all have excellent voices, the unbearably loud amplification does little to support this. In fact, it makes the women in particular, sound unnecessarily shrill even as it makes the listener want to run for cover.

The amplification and its effect on the singing make it almost impossible to comment objectively on the score except that it's mostly in the rock idiom. To give the show a timely flavor, there are a few Bush jokes, the best one about it being about time to invade "reckless Sweden."

Perhaps the best way to sum up this musical is with the penultimate Gospel number's title "Save the People", that contains the line "You gotta have chutzpah."

Designer Beowulf Boritt provides flags of all nations (well, almost all) placed atop a semi-circle of blue flats on an open stage. It helps to tell us at the outset where we are, but not what we are in for.

How to Save the World and Find True Love in 90 Minutes
Book & Lyrics: Jonathan Karp
Music: Seth Weinstein
Director / Choreographer: Christopher Gattelli
Cast: Michael McEachran, Anika Larsen, Nicole Ruth Snelson, Stephen Bienskie, Natalie Joy Johnson, Kevin Smith Kirkwood
Sets: Beowulf Borritt
Costumes: David Murin
Lights: Jeff Croiter
Sound: Peter Hylenski
  Musical Director: SethWeinstein
 Running Time: 95 minutes without intermission
Musicians: Conductor, Keyboard/Seth Weinstein; Keyboard/Jonah Speidel; Bass/James Bettincourt:Drums/Greg Germann
New World Stages / Stage 5, 340 West 50th Street (8th and 9th Avenues) 212/239-6200
From November 4, 2006;opening November 12, 2006
Monday, Tuesday, Thursday & Friday @ 8pm, Saturday @ 2pm & 8pm, Sunday @ 3pm & 7pm
Tickets $25 to $75
Reviewed by Simon Saltzman based on November 10th performance
Closing 12/31/06 after 10 previews and 57 performances at New World Stages.
Musical Numbers
  • Only the Paranoid Survive /Miles, The Greeks
  • Love or Fear /Julie, Miles
  • 1 Want What You Want /Miles, Violet, The Greeks
  • The Melon Ballet /The Company
  • Julie's Prayer/ Julie, The Greeks
  • The Voices in My Head /Miles, The Greeks
  • Violet's Confession /Violet
  • Love Is Violet,/ Julie, Yogi
  • Yoga Class /Yogi, Julie, Miles, Yoga Students
  • I Want to Know You /Miles, Violet
  • Read My Mind /The Greeks
  • It's Over, Miles/ The Company
  • When the Music Played /Julie
  • We Can Save the World and Find True Love /He, Violet
  • Save the People / Miles, The Greeks
  • Oh, God 'T' Read My Mind /The Company
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