Off-Broadway Review: “The Time Machine” at the New York Musical Festival at the Acorn Theatre on Theatre Row

Off-Broadway Review: “The Time Machine” at the New York Musical Festival at the Acorn Theatre at Theatre Row (Closed Sunday July 16, 2017)
Book by David Mauk and Brenda Mandabach
Music and Lyrics by David Mauk
Directed Justin Baldridge
Reviewed by Joseph Verlezza
Theatre Reviews Limited

The new musical “The Time Machine,” presented as part of New York Musical Festival, is an overwrought musical adaptation of the H.G. Wells classic, plagued with too many genres, resulting in a enfeebled main plot. Basically, to become more cohesive, the creative team needs to decide what the product wants to be. Is it a love story, a Sci-fi thriller, or a comic book musical? Is it to be taken seriously or should it be simply an evening of fun entertainment? The message is lost as flippant styles emerge from one scene to the next. The music and lyrics by David Mauk are quite impressive, but seem to embrace a dark, heavy somber tone with little diversity. Teaming up with Brenda Mandabach, their book seems to be the weakest element of the production, with changing intent and shallow characters in search of dimension.

The cast is superb and once again as has often been seen in this year’s festival, outshines the material. Michael Hunsiker creates Thomas, a staunch hero with a sturdy, romantic baritone to match. Randal Keith provides all the necessary elements of a comic book villain supported by bold, powerful vocals that accentuate his character. Soprano, Bligh Voth delivers a pure tonal quality to her vocals, befitting the strong yet vulnerable love interest, Wenissa. The large supporting cast provides a more than adequate execution throughout the performance, producing solid vocals, versatile movement and multiple characters.

Director Justin Baldridge generates a steady pace to the action but also falls prey to the problem of genre identity and character definition. Choreography by Jim Cooney is competent, deftly moving the large cast comfortably around the small stage strewn with inventive and resourceful set pieces designed by Lauren Mills. Costumes range from turn of the 19th century realistic, period to comic book futuristic fantasy designed with faultless fashion by Vanessa Leuck.