Randy Jones & Remy Zaken in 'The Anthem' | Photo by Michael Blase
The sparkling and hilarious musical The Anthem—with a book by Gary Morgenstein, music by Jonnie Rockwell, and lyrics by Erik Ransom—opened Off-Broadway at the Culture Project’s Lynn Redgrave theater last weekend. Naturally, a musical is the best way to tackle Ayn Rand's ponderous, poorly written, politically confused novel. With its 7-foot-tall leatherman executioner singing sweet, sexy music for the coitus chamber (in-between plying his trade with a disco ball of death), Rand at the very least provided the absurd premise for an absurd work.
The camp musical takes place in a future described as "far beyond the early 1980s" in which individuality is illegal and one young man, cleverly called Promethius (Jason Gotay), escapes into the forest to join some anarchists, where he eats fruit and moves into the suburbs with the anarchist leader (I know, it looks like they turned out to be libertarians) who then helps smash the state. So basically, it was a bad book, but a good musical.
The songs are catchy, the outfits are Logan's Run-meets-Klaus Nomi, and the incredibly fit dancers double as gymnasts, spinning on ropes around the stage. Every song is a spectacle, and every act has at least a couple catchy numbers. Randy Jones, known forever to fans as the Cowboy from the Village People, switches his Stetson for the subtler dictator's black navy officer cap and plays Tiberius, the evil Citizen 2 who offers his baritone in the service of crushing individual thought.
Two of the best roles in The Anthem are Hermes (Em Grosland), the show's Puck, who makes the audience feel like they are with the cast—in on the joke—and Hera (Remy Zaken), the librarian/spurned side-chick of Promethius who seethes and explodes as sidekicks are wont to do. All told, The Anthem is great and, as such, you give it your money based on its merits. Ah, Capitalism!
The Anthem plays through July 7 at Culture Project's Lynn Redgrave Theatre, 45 Bleecker St., NYC.