Death, the Musical Brings Sketchy Sketches

The set-up: If, by any chance, the title of this world-premiere revue doesn't give away this show's theme, perhaps the white coffin propped up stage left or pianist/musical director Steven Jones dressed in iconic medieval cowl should give you a hint. And just in time for Halloween.

The execution: In its 34 scenes and 14 songs, this four-performer musical from Thunderclap Productions takes the hoary old subject of death, kicks it around without much humor or finesse, and pretty well keeps it where it finds it -- hoary. The revue uses blackout sketches and much better songs in its comic examination of all things related to the main theme: morticians ("Necrophilia"), the electric chair ("Sizzlin' Sally"), serial murderers ("Black Widow Bitch"), taxidermy, suicide. Even the despised Transportation Security Administration gets a deservedly funny skewering, as a passenger's tweezers become the trick ending and another passenger's coup de grace.

Most of the skits are in questionable taste, but the worst fault isn't the show's flaunting of its anti-PC correctness, but the sketchiness of the sketches. Most have no perceivable ending, they just stop and the lights go off, or we're not sure what the point of the sketch is supposed to be. Take "Douche," for example. Two employees stand at the coffin of their hated boss. You can tell they despise him because they shout "douche" at the body. But one of the guys has an idea. He'll give his boss from hell the ultimate send-off, he'll pee in the coffin. Only he can't. Lights out.

It's not all deathly pallor at Ovations, thanks to the lively quartet who put over this canned material as if it were the best of Neil Simon. H.R. Bradford, Ashley Maack, Erin Roche and especially Kregg Dailey (always a friend to any musical) give their all in a desperate attempt to resuscitate this dead body. At least the music has a heartbeat. Although there are seven composers, the tunes seem of one piece. All of them, even the weakest, have more charm than the skits that surround them. "Lullaby," by composer Aaron Alon, sung by concerned mom Roche to baby Dailey, tells the tyke not to be afraid of the dark, but of the day, when bad things really happen. Equally ironic and deeply chilling, that song has all the power that's mostly missing from the show.

The verdict: Without much sting in the material, the attractive foursome, under sprightly direction from Jimmy Phillips, keeps the show alive with some savvy showbiz CPR, but ultimately, as all things must, the show flatlines.

The show runs through October 31 at Ovations, 2536-B Times Blvd., 281-954-4399.

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D.L. Groover has contributed to countless reputable publications including the Houston Press since 2003. His theater criticism has earned him a national award from the Association of Alternative Newsmedia (AAN) as well as three statewide Lone Star Press Awards for the same. He's co-author of the irreverent appreciation, Skeletons from the Opera Closet (St. Martin's Press), now in its fourth printing.
Contact: D. L. Groover