Worse than Its Bite: “Werewolves of Hollywood Blvd.”

The Fringe Festival offers great low-cost exposure for new shows.
But a new rock musical faces a problem — most Fringe spaces are small, black boxes.  Not the place for stadium sound.

Nor, alas, for The Werewolves of Hollywood Blvd.

David Haverty, ensemble

David Haverty, ensemble

The latest creation of Orgasmico Theatre Company is full of high energy, with an appealingly complex story, a lively score and inventive staging.  But it comes to grief trying to house its huge sound in 99-seat Lillian Theatre.

The concept has promise.  Move Wolf of Wall Street west, mash it up with — wait: not  Lon Chaney, but real werewolves.  Historically documented cases of people who thought (or whose neighbors thought) they turned into predators and feasted on humans.

Great opportunities for moral and psychological exploration. “Does evil enmesh us like moonlight or come from within?”  “If our society’s corrupt, who makes it that way?”  “Can we save ourselves, and those we love?”  Plus lots of gory fan service.

Add Michael Teoli’s music and a seasoned cast, with singers who can belt — David Haverty (Peter Stump), Leigh Wulff (Joan of Tarcouca),  librettist Michael Shaw Fisher (Jacques Roulet) — and a steady, empathetic lead like Kyle Nudo (Lawson Grace), and you’re home.

Except that even the largest Fringe venue isn’t home for an amplified rock band and a dozen singers wearing mics.  Even without the band, the mics were treacherous.  In scene after scene, we lost pieces of dialog when raised voices sent words ricocheting off the walls before our ears could capture them.

And in the musical numbers, fully half of the words disappeared.  In a poorly written show, this might not matter.  But Fisher & Teoli have written Werewolves so that things actually happen during the songs.  They’re an integral, important part of the story.  And when we can’t make out what’s being sung, we lose crucial moments of character development, even plot points.  Thoughts and feelings  slip into garble, and a subtle story sinks toward stereotyped sketching.

Orgasmico has a proud track record (Doomsday Cabaret, Exorcistic).  But before they can impale this newest head on the front-yard fence (hey — dark rock operas don’t get Tonys or Oscars), they need to find a home for Werewolves, where its virtues can be fully appreciated.

The Werewolves of Hollywood Blvd., by Michael Shaw Fisher and Michael Teoli, directed by Aaron Lyons.
Presented by Orgasmico Theatre Company at the Lillian Theatre, 1076 Lillian Way.

Saturday June 28 at 4:45 pm.

Tickets: <www.hff14.org/1507>