Stage and Cinema film and theatre reviews
 

Manson: the Musical! – Off Broadway Theater Review

  

THE SUMMER OF LOVE

 

picture - Manson: the Musical!Theater Review

by Andrew Turner

published November 15, 2009

 

Manson: the Musical!

now playing Off Broadway at the Kraine Theatre

through December 5

 

When a play has a name like Manson: the Musical!, you automatically expect a few things:  

 

1. It will be silly

2. It will be exploitative

3. It will be crude

 

Fortunately, this End Times Production, now play Off Broadway at the Kraine Theatre, is all three. And I say fortunately because there’s no other way to accurately portray the lunatic that is Charles Manson and his gang's spree of senseless murders. This is a production which is as absurd, senseless, and unabashed as the subject material itself and, as such, it works beautifully.

 

Most everyone knows a little about the Manson family and the murder of Sharon Tate. What people may not know much about is the man himself. The son of a 16-year old unmarried, alcoholic mother, Manson didn't exactly get off to a good start in life. His mother reportedly once tried to sell him to a childless waitress for a pitcher of beer. He started committing crimes at the age of 13, often with the help of family members, and would be in and out of correctional facilities for most of his life.

 

picture - Manson: the Musical!And yet, despite it all, Manson managed to make something of himself (if, by “making something of yourself,” you mean becoming one of the most infamous mass murderers in American history).  During the infamous Summer of Love in 1967, he befriended stars such as Beach Boy Dennis Wilson and assembled an army of female followers to satisfy his every whim. He made himself a celebrity, achieving his own twisted version of the American Dream.

 

A production like this would be nothing without a strong lead. And, boy, does Alexander Dunbar deliver. The diminutive bearded actor is all sweat and charisma, and you find yourself rooting with him despite his atrocious behavior. This is a Manson who knows what he is, accepts it, even uses it to his advantage. He has no delusions about himself, even if he has managed to pull the wool over everybody else's eyes.

 

Director and company manager Russell Dobular does an excellent job eliciting a spirit of macabre whimsy from his cast. Although the music is a little out of tune and the props are crude, they are in keeping with the ramshackle spirit of the production.

 

It's cliché to say that Manson is a product of society, but that doesn't make it less true. Our continued fascination with him is testament to that. By letting Manson and his followers simply be what they are – insane and ruthless – End Times does a masterful job with this production.  And the fact that it is so enjoyable is about as effective a mirror as you can get.

 

andrewturner @ stageandcinema.com

 

 
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