Terry E. Schnuck and Kim Hughes
MINISTRY OF PROGRESS
Musical Created and Directed by KIM HUGHES
Adapted from the Play by CHARLIE MORROW
Jane Street Theatre (In Hotel Riverview), 113 Jane Street, NYC, March 4 - 28, 2004
Scenic Design ADRIANA SERRANO
Costume Design FABIO TOBLINI
Lighting Design JASON KANTROWITZ
Video Director GREG SLAGLE
Sound Design MICHAEL G. WARD
Musical Director/Arranger CHRISTIAN MARTIRANO
Press Representative THE JACKSINA COMPANY
Dave Glutterman Jason Scott Campbell
Peter Rabbitch Brian J. Dorsey
Drone #2 Tyne Firmin
Drone #3 Gary Marachek
Sylvia - Jennifer McCabe
Benedetto Maia A. Moss
Drone #1 Julie Reiber
Guard Richard E. Waits
Eugene Poole Christian Whelan
Conductor/Synthesizer Tommy Farragher
Drums/Percussion J. Fitz Harris
Guitar Joseph M. Friedman
Bass Guitar Joseph Raposo
John Beltzer Sara Carlson Philip Dessinger Ted Eyes
Alex Forbes Kathy Hart Kim Hughes Gary Levine
Christian Martirano Jeremy Schonfeld Tony Visconti
Based upon a radio play penned by Charlie Morrow, and presented in a production style that suggests a drabber, if realer, less decadent version of RENT, the Jane Street Theatre has become home to a promisingly relatable musical by Kim Hughes called MINISTRY OF PROGRESS. Featuring a few notable numbers, a simple plot, flashy lighting, and some nice vocal arrangements, this is one of those theatrical events that I can imagine being revamped, expanded, and polished up for the long haul.
The Playbill for MINISTRY OF PROGRESS lists the time of the action as "the eternal now," and that describes it about as well as I could. This is a musical about bureaucracy, after all, and more specifically about being caught up within the machinations of the bureaucratic system by visiting a government office to right an internal processing error. If there is something that feels more apt than "the eternal now" to describe that situation, I have not had such a phrase pop into my head yet.
The action ostensibly revolves around a guy named Dave who tried to update his state identification card online and wound up being misidentified. On a mission to right the wrong, Dave ventures to the MINISTRY OF PROGRESS only to find that progress is anything but the purpose at this dinosaur of an institution. As Dave sings and winds his way through the MINISTRY OF PROGRESS he comes across more than a handful of characters. There is the lovely but cryptic Sylvia, the tough-as-nails Benedetto, and the highly neurotic Dr. Gene Poole, just to name a few. There are toiling Drones, unsympathetic security guards, and an overall sense that life here exists for the express purpose of repetitive monotony.
There is but a sliver of real plot at play, but Him Hughes manic direction paired with the live music and overall design elevate the material. Adriana Serranos design is industrial and appropriate, as we get the feeling that we are inside the bowels of the MINISTRY OF PROGRESS for a good part of the program. The costumes by Fabio Toblini work well, especially on the women. The elements are all there. Unfortunately, they serve merely to dress up a rather deflated bottom line.
Promising, meaning to be poignant, and featuring some very solid production values, MINISTRY OF PROGRESS is one show I would like to think of as a work in progress. It can be so much more than what it is. I hope the creators choose to take it to that next level.
- Kessa De Santis -