KPBS AIRDATE: March 17, 1993
“Faust” is a legend. “Faustorama” is a mishmash. This brand new, New Age rock musical seems to be none of the above. It was eight years in the making, but this is one time when eight is not enough. The world premiere, presented by the Gaslamp Quarter Theatre Company and produced by something called Broadway Just for You! is unequivocally well intentioned but equally ill-conceived.
“Faustorama” is the brainchild of John Maxwell Taylor, whose impressive credentials don’t really show on or off-stage. Born in England, the Encinitas resident headed a rock band that toured Europe, appeared before the Queen, and opened for the likes of the Beatles and the Stones. Taylor also worked with Andrew Lloyd Webber somewhere along the line. But you’d never know it. His book, music and lyrics are derivative and puerile. His acting is nonexistent and his singing must have seen better days.
The mock-opera’s plot-line is as confused as the conception itself. There’s Mephistopheles, as nasty as you wanna be. But he’d like to be restored to God’s good graces. He’s kind of bored, so God gives him another chance at Faust, the one who sold his soul to Mephisto many moons ago, in exchange for knowledge and power. The old philosopher has supposedly been reincarnated as one Dr. Morpheus. Mephistopheles takes an angel with him to help lure the soul of the good doctor once again. Margaretta takes human form again, and falls in love with the once and future Faust all over again. Then Helena, or Helen of Troy, gets back into the picture, to woo Faust away. Mephisto makes some sort of deal with God, he takes everyone for a spin on his Faustorama, a swan-shaped Disneyland ride that is guaranteed to “spin you around to another reality.”
It’s all very complex but silly, and we ultimately learn the following: “Faust is humanity in the process of becoming”; “Lucifer is just an android”; God can be man or woman (“I am whatever people choose to make of me”); and last but certainly not least, “Live each moment… because ‘Paradise is where you are.'”
Even Mephistopheles says, somewhere into the bottom of the second hour, “I’m confused by the twists and turns of the plot.” Now there’s something I could relate to.
Of course, on some level I could also relate to the exhaustive references to the powerlessness of women and the power of New Age chicks, the bonding of the men’s movement, the self-destruction of modern-day society, the trashing of the environment, PMS, the healing of Los Angeles, network lunches, lost innocence, the child within, dolphins, endorphins and astral planes. You get the picture. Obviously, Taylor’s years in Findhorn Scotland, a pioneering New Age community, weren’t lost on him.
But he’s not sure what he wants. A love story? A seriously sarcastic pseudo opera? A slapstick slam of the 20th Century? A legend for our times? If he couldn’t figure it out, how are we supposed to? And director David Obele doesn’t really give us much help. There are a few attractive stage pictures, but with 16 scenes and 20 people prancing about with more posturing and aimlessness than acting ability or choreography, with more smoke and fog than you can see your way through, and with some vocal prowess and strength — but only with mikes, backed by muted, canned music… Well, what’s an audience member to do?
I’d like to be more positive about an effort that obviously took so much effort. I’m very happy that the lights are still on in the Gaslamp Quarter Theatre. But I can barely imagine what’s gonna happen when this amateur production hits the Henry Fonda Theatre in Hollywood next month. All I can say is, break a leg; it might help.
I’m Pat Launer, for KPBS radio.
©1993 Patté Productions Inc.