The Elephant Man -- The Musical


Editorial Review

Trunk Show: The Elephant Sings!

Remember the line from "The Elephant Man" about John Merrick's deformed head being so big because it's full of dreams? Turns out they're Broadway dreams, baby!

"Elephant Man -- The Musical " is a one-joke show mainly for buffs eager to spot the loving song-and-dance rip-offs ("Gypsy" to "Les Miz") in the final batch of tunes. This deliberate travesty only takes four actors to pull it off, though the New York-based No. 11 Productions' quick-paced staging also includes a hilarious video chronicling the modern-day Merrick's Broadway audition.

"Fantastic," one of the producers says after Merrick sings. "Now let's see if you can move."

That leads to some pretty funny dance business, a high point in a 75-minute affair that's almost inevitably full of peaks and valleys. Neither the score nor the musical performances hold much real interest, except when Haley Greenstein nails a vocally acrobatic solo as Jessica Curvey (an overeducated but lovelorn gal who takes a shine to Merrick). At least Ira Sargent's droll turn as a quack doctor -- oddly, he's really more of a pulp writer -- is consistently amusing, and you have to be impressed by the way Roger Mulligan, as the optimistic, consonant-slurping Merrick, handles himself in the absurd potato-head getup he has to wear.

No. 11 has moxie, at least; the troupe is scheduled to perform this show in New York in between the weekend dates here. It seems the company recently tackled Antonin Artaud's daunting avant-garde piece, "Jet of Blood." As for the writers -- book by Jeff Hylton and Tim Werenko, music by Paul Jones and Hylton, with lyrics by Hylton -- did they know "The Elephant Man" had already been turned into a musical in the 1989 Jeff Goldblum movie "The Tall Guy"? The spoof's the same here, only longer.

-- Nelson Pressley