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LA Theater Review

Pilgrim

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The creative team behind this new musical by composer John Stothers has assembled a talented cast of singers and actors capable of conveying comic material and heavy drama. Unfortunately, there's not much else to praise regarding this too-long, forgettable, and monotonous work. This Southern rock-influenced musical, directed by Nick DeGruccio, lacks the anchors of a compelling story and a decent score, and it does little more than repeat endlessly the idea that to achieve freedom in life, one must succeed in conquering fears and self-doubt. Stothers incorporates several choreographed dream sequences, which are too long and frequently awkward. The result is that even this capable cast is unable to rise above such weak material.

Pilgrim takes place in an unspecified time, in a walled three-level city. On the top are the Guildmasters, who rule with no mercy the Crafters on the ground. The middle level is where the guards patrol and where Ten Bosch (Eric Anderson), a printer with aspirations of being a Guildmaster, resides. The hero is Tinker (Tom Korbee), whose father is in prison for heresy. Tinker's life is disrupted by Anna (Jessica Rush), daughter of a Guildmaster. To avoid marrying one of the masters, she convinces Tinker to marry her. Soon after, Tinker's father is killed in his cell. When Tinker retrieves the body, he meets a seemingly crazy prisoner named Hieronymus (Robert Patteri), who informs him that he must take his father's place as the one who will find the key to the walled city to free the people. And the key, Tinker learns, will be revealed to him in his dreams.

Of the two dozen or so songs, only two are enjoyable: "You Coulda Had Me" is a cute, catchy number sung by the women crafters, lamenting that Tinker chose Anna over them, and "What He Sees" is an attractive, emotionally layered love duet between Tinker and Anna.

The performers can't be faulted for their efforts. Korbee and Rush as Tinker and Anna have pleasant voices, and they have chemistry as lovers. Anderson squeezes as much humor as he can as Ten Bosch. By strutting and posing and singing with a sarcastic, evil tone, Anderson provides the evening's few laughs. Patteri is in fine voice, and he gives heart and strength to several ballads, even though the songs lack honest emotion. DeGruccio, working with a bulky rotating scaffolding set and a huge cast, keeps the action from being overly stilted. But the transitions to and from choreographer Josie Walsh's overwrought dream sequences are clunky. It's clear that Stothers earnestly, diligently attempted to make an important and memorable musical about life's journey. But he fell well short of accomplishing his goal.

Presented by Rustycup Productions at the Ricardo Montalbรกn Theatre, 1615 Vine St., Hollywood. Thu.-Fri. 8 p.m., Sat. 2 & 8 p.m., Sun. 2 p.m. Mar. 25-Apr. 23. (800) 595-4849.

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