LU Staff mentioned to you earlier, reader, that the United States taxpayer has spent $700,000 to back the development of a climate change musical. But that’s so much less than half the story.
For one thing, if you think some entity within the “arts” portfolio of the U.S. government made the grant for this musical, you think wrong. It was the National Science Foundation. The New York Times noted that interesting anomaly when the grant was first announced in 2010:
The grant is a rare gift to an arts organization from the foundation, a federal agency that pays for science, engineering and mathematics research and education. The company says it plans to spend the money on the development and evaluation of the show, as well as on a tour and educational programs, including post-show panel discussions with experts in related scientific fields.
So, OK, dudes, as long as there are post-show panel discussions with experts. Meanwhile, the world premier of the musical, “The Great Immensity,” took place way off Broadway, in Kansas City, in early 2012. Senator Tom Coburn’s celebrated “Waste Book” for that year gave the theatrical oeuvre short shrift in the review department:
“The Great Immensity” opened in Kansas City this year. Along with the songs one reviewer described as sounding like “a Wikipedia entry set to music,” the audience was also able to experience “flying monkey poop.”
Local theater critic Victor Wishna gamely gave it longer shrift:
At first, the clever structure keeps the audience one step ahead of the characters, allowing us to watch with satisfaction as they discover details we already know—without really knowing any better how those bits will all come together. (The Great Immensity, for example, is the translated name of a Chinese cargo ship that plays a role in Polly’s disappearance.)
The narrative is advanced through snippets of video interviews from Polly’s hard drive—many revealing startling data about the human race’s dire outlook—and vaudeville-like musical numbers that bring environmental research to life. Climate-change polling percentages become fodder for a tango (“Margin of Error”), while the last days of an extinct species are re-imagined in a sad song of lost love (“Martha, the Last Pigeon”). “Charismatic Megafauna,” sung by McGeary (who quickly swaps jungle shorts for an evening gown for her moment as a glamorous spurned lover), is clever if not quite the ridiculous showstopper it should be.
(For even more shrift, see this local-critic review.)
The prospect of these effervescent entertainments is, of course, tantalizing. But put your tenterhooks back in the closet, because we have samples for you right here. Enjoy.
“Margin of Error”
“Martha” (The Last Pigeon)
Sondheim probably won’t be calling any time soon.
Final note: for $700,000, we could have bought a Tomahawk cruise missile.