The Second Coming

Where's Andrew Lloyd Webber when you need him? Even his troubled version of Mary Haley Bell's novel, Whistle Down the Wind, has got to be better than the disaster of a musical now running at The Masquerade Theatre. The saddest part of all is that the dead weight of this Russell Labey and Richard Taylor adaptation is carried on the thin backs of three perfectly charming young girls who are clearly singing as hard as they can to keep this monster in the air.

The best that can be said of the premise is that it's preposterous. Three sisters meet a strange man in their barn one day and decide out of nowhere that he must be Christ returned for a visit. In the meantime, the older townsfolk are worried in a vague way about a convict on the loose.

Surprisingly, not much conflict follows. Youngest sister Charlie (Stephanie Styles) lets the cat out of the bag about Christ being in the barn and all. And it isn't long before all the children in town are crowding around The Man (Ilich Guardiola); they bunch their flowered prairie skirts around their legs and sit cross-legged in the hay listening to his tales.

Eventually, the grown-ups figure out what's going on in the barn. There's a short mob scene, but The Man disappears in an utterly bizarre turn of events that involves a blazing cross. (In fact, there are several crosses on stage throughout this morosely religious pageant.)

No matter how prettily Amanda Wertz sings the role of the oldest daughter, or how feisty Styles gets as the youngest, or how levelheaded Kacy Smith remains as the girl trapped in the middle, these ladies simply cannot save the show.

In fact it's only when Guardiola stands in a solo spot to sing "The Man's Song," written expressly for this production by Houstonian Luther Chakurian, that the show sparks to any kind of life.

Running well over two hours, Whistle Down the Wind seemed to go on too long even for some of the actors, the youngest of whom were yawning like kittens well before this dull story's end.

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Lee Williams