Weird Romance | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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WEIRD ROMANCE, Effective Theatre Company and Musical Repertorie Theatre, at the Athenaeum Theatre studio. One of the 80s' most talented musical-theater teams was playwright-lyricist Howard Ashman and composer Alan Menken, a partnership cut short at the start of the 90s by Ashman's death from AIDS. The impact of his loss is all too apparent in this pedestrian 1991 effort by Menken, David Spencer, and Alan Brennert.

These two Twilight Zone-ish one-acts spin variations on the Pygmalion theme. In The Girl Who Was Plugged In a corporate kingpin transfers the mind of a lame homeless woman into the alluring body of an android, thus creating a cyber celebrity to plug the corporation's products; in Her Pilgrim Soul a scientist conjures up a beautiful ghost with his holographic imaging system. But these speculative premises are squandered in the sentimental contrivances of Brennert and Spencer's scripts, and Spencer's bland lyrics fail to inspire Menken to write anything more than formulaic, predictable rehashes of his Disney film scores (Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid). The only thing these songs add to the show is running time.

Despite the earnest efforts of an able cast directed by Walter Stearns and Benjamin Tweel (as well as some interesting video animation by Jerry Carnett), "Weird Romance" comes off as a negligible effort that no theater company or audience would waste time on if not for the composer's once-promising reputation.

--Albert Williams

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