by Judith Jarosz · August 26, 2015
The Pope has passed and the Cardinals gather in the Sistine Chapel, where they will compete in a series of grueling “Papal Challenges” to choose the new Pope. Problem is…most of the “real” Cardinals were on a cruise when the ship went down killing them all and leaving only a handful of motley candidates left over from when the deceased Pope, in a fit of political correctness, appointed a group of “civilians” with the title of Cardinal. And what a group it is! Aside from the Vatican Cardinals, the trollish tyrant Cardinalissimo Francisco Franco and the shy Aussie Cardinal Wallaby, there are the civilian Cardinals, the Yiddish-prone Cardinal Bergenstein, the mute, unitard-wearing Cardinal Fouette, unflappable, non-Asian-looking Cardinal Hu-Jin Chao, the eager, boyish Cardinal McCafferty, the foul-mouthed Jersey skank Cardinal Robin and the oversexed Southern belle Cardinal St. Louis. Yikes!
Each character longs to be Pope for very individual and not necessarily honorable reasons, with the exception of young Cardinal McCafferty, who just wants to spread love and understanding in the world any way that he can. However, he is only just discovering his own self as well and it turns out that he is attracted to men, in particular, the yarmulke-wearing Cardinal Bergenstein. As the challenges progress with Cardinalissimo Francisco Franco, Cardinal Wallaby and a talking furnace the looks like a giant gold penis (yes) presiding, each character reveals more about their background and intentions with mounting hilarious backbiting results.
With book, music and lyrics by Adam Overett (the orchestrator is Oran Eldor), this bouncy musical snaps, crackles and pops along with plenty of laughs and also some touching moments. Director/choreographer Drew Geraci and music director Jesse Kissel keep things razor sharp and moving along. Sound designer Janie Bullard, costume designer DW Withrow, lighting designer Weston G. Wetzel and scenic designer Clifton Chadick all hit the right notes here.
I can’t say enough about this cast, which is one of the most professional and talented groupings I have seen in some time at the Fringe or anywhere else, and I was not surprised to find multiple Broadway credits in their bios. Everyone keeps us in stitches and I am immensely pleased that the producers saw fit in a cast of eight, with what would be six male roles and two female, to cast two women in male roles…as male…making it a 4-4 ratio.
As the sweet young Cardinal McCafferty, Stephen Christopher Anthony strikes just the right balance of humor and sincerity as does David Perlman as the Yiddish Cardinal Bergenstein. Rachel Coloff is hilarious as an anger-spewing, hump-backed Cardinalissimo Francisco Franco who plays wonderfully off the equally hilarious meeker, distraught Cardinal Wallaby of Susan J. Jacks. Jason Veasey as the tall sinewy Cardinal Hu-Jin Chao, Alexa Green as the curvaceous Jersey firestorm Cardinal Robin, Lucas Thompson as the mute balletic Cardinal Fouette (lovely dancer!), and especially Danette Holden as the horny southern gal Cardinal St. Louis--who made my guest and I practically fall off of our chairs laughing with her song of about loving JEEESUS most of all--are all true triple threats who hit it out of the park. If this show moves, I certainly hope this whole cast goes with it.