METROPOLIS, Olympic Theatre. The first production in the huge, newly renovated Olympic Theatre in beautiful downtown Cicero is Metropolis, which, with its badly written book, its forgettable, soupy tunes, and its laughably broad acting, is one of those shows that make you ask, just who is this musical meant for?
Adapted from Fritz Lang’s 1926 dystopian film about a futuristic world in which everyone is either a pampered Elitist or an exhausted, dronelike Worker, the show retains Lang’s sociopolitical edge. Yet the characters, mere shadows of those in Lang’s film, are strictly children’s theater. The villains, the dictator of the city and his henchmen, are pure evil–one of them even lets loose a Snidely Whiplash laugh at the climax of the story. And the heroes, the dictator’s good-natured son and a prole-babe evangelist named Maria, are so sweet it makes your teeth ache. Joe Brooks and Dusty Hughes, who collaborated on the show’s book and lyrics, further undercut the implications of the class struggle at the center of the plot by emphasizing the love story and by turning the workers into such faceless morons that no self-respecting working-class audience would for a second see themselves.
For the sake of Brooks’s score I hope this show is meant for children, because I can’t imagine many adults would enjoy his schizophrenic pastiche of pop and rock styles, some reminiscent of better pop and rock musicals, all of them a good 15 years out of date. But then what do you expect from a composer whose biggest hit was “You Light Up My Life”? Andrew Lloyd Webber?