Greed, dysfunctional relationships, and a story including the discovery that a brand of toothpaste has the surprising side effect of curing depression - what more could you want? A plate of macaroni and cheese that glows in the dark? Actually, the musical Genius Famous has that, too. This quirky, edgy little-show-that-could from last year's Fringe Festival in Manhattan is now available on CD. It's a low budget affair as far as recordings go, hardly state of the art, but it has a lot going for it. There's some wild humor, high energy performances by a youthful cast and a boldness that's kind of endearing in its way.
It's a piece that's gone through changes and could use more work; some lyrics could use a tweak and another twist, as well as some clarification. It's not all instantly accessible in this version, but after a second and third listen, I found it more and more satisfying. Stylistically, it's contemporary with pop and rock influences and a rollicking renegade kind of musical theater sensibility. The characters have life and attitude, with some effective interaction. The recording features the 2005 cast directed by Ryan J. Davis. A cut song, "It's Hard to Love a Person When They're Suicidal," has dark irreverent humor and I'd vote for its reinstatement. It's pretty funny, maybe a guilty pleasure. The advertising world's rat race is a big part of the story (thus the toothpaste as a product to be marketed) and there's a jingle that's quite fun. Another number about a woman's sometime anti-male bias is cute as a can't-live-with-'em-can't-live-without-'em statement. And that song about the macaroni and cheese that glows in the dark (it's a long story) is tasty.
Although the cast and material are uneven, there's some good work here. The company does especially well in a sharp ensemble number about young underemployed people in the city trying to make ends meet. Best of all is Matt Sigl whose goofy and madcap merriment suits the piece, especially in a number in which he covets a prestigious credit card. The music, lyrics and book are by Jason Atkinson, who shows talent and is already onto other projects. He's writing a new musical about musicians and has his own more low-key pop album, Friendly Radio, as a singer-songwriter.
Those who have a taste for satire and something off the beaten path will appreciate the potential and zing of Genius Famous. In the interest of truthful marketing, it won't cure depression any more than toothpaste can, but it may temporarily make you smile several smiles with those pearly whites.