MANSON: THE MUSICAL, Annoyance Theatre. When I first saw this musical about Charles Manson and his "family" in 1990, the show had a dark, subversive quality--accentuated by the Annoyance's raggedy digs--that added to its power and comedy. Nine years later, the many jokes about oral sex are frankly a little tired. And the Annoyance folks don't seem as scary or as hell-bent on creating comic mischief as they were back when Co-ed Prison Sluts was still a wild new show instead of a reliable late-night cash cow.
But happily current Manson director Mark Sutton recognizes that what got laughs in the depths of the denial-soaked "Don't worry, be happy" Bush administration may not earn them today. So he and this cast of Annoyance regulars play up the silly side of Tom Booker's script--the Manson family's cartoonish daily routines, the unmotivated song-and-dance sequences (the Sharon Tate murder is choreographed like a rumble from West Side Story), and the madcap interviews with the Beatles, Beach Boys, and Monkees, three groups that loomed large in Manson's twisted psyche.
By and large these actors aren't as strong as the original, most of whom have moved on to greener pastures. Kris Hipps's Sharon Tate can't hold a candle to Mary Booker's ethereal 60s starlet turned murder victim, but Sutton makes a much stronger and funnier Manson than I remember Ben Zook being. And certainly this ensemble is tight and playful enough to mine the easier jokes in Manson: The Musical. --Jack Helbig