The Vanity Project- Review
Telling the Greek Tragedy of Narcissus and Echo through a Rock Opera, The Vanity Project, though it claims to be “a cautionary tale for an isolating age”, simply manages to caution against the ineffectiveness of boredom to musical theater. Though the score has potential to be quite well done, the constant lack of energy, direction, and strange style choices outweigh any good that this show has at the moment. Written, Directed by, and starring Tim Oberholzer, The Vanity Project is in dire need of a workshop and musical direction before it could be considered worth seeing.
I need to specify that the night I saw the show, Nicholas Amott (Narcissus), was not present, meaning that Oberholzer played double duty as both the narrator of the tale and Narcissus. This meant that much of the narration was done by a voice recording of Oberholzer. All of the music was pre-recorded, which is understandable, but because of the lack of stage direction (when on stage, the characters where mostly stagnant) this made it very difficult to be engaged in any way shape or form. With the added narration recording, it was even more difficult to stay engaged in the lyrics. This was also not aided by the extremely repetitive nature of the songs. The melody would last for 16-24 bars then repeat over and over and over for what felt like 20 minutes of essentially the same music. It doesn’t help that during these repetitive songs the entire story was being explained, meaning that because of mind wandering, half of the story was lost on me (luckily I already knew the gist of it). Though some of this music is rather nice, it is definitely not performance ready. Having a separate musical director would help to fit the music properly into the show was well as to create the kinds of performances needed for musical theater.
Also starring Tess McManus (Echo) and Holly Griffith (Nemesis) with an appearance by Rachel Eugster, these ladies had quite nice voices, though they all lacked the raw emotion needed to make musical theater exciting. In musical theater, typically, songs occur when the character is so overcome with emotion that they cannot speak anymore, leading them to burst into song. There was no semblance of bursting in The Vanity Project as there was barely even a sense of emotion. Their performances were bland despite their talent, though I do not fault the cast entirely for this. Emotion can be helped by direction and since, as mentioned before, there was a serious lack of that, I imagine it would be difficult to attempt to create overwhelming emotion while keeping still.
The design of the show was also very strange. Set in the 50’s, but only in costume, the entirety of the costumes and set were red and black (with the exception of a bed that has a green checkered cover?). This stark contrast was actually quite overwhelming and displeasing to the eye. It was also off-putting when Nemesis entered in a stark red dress that was extremely ill-fitting. The dress was not fully zipped, and the direction had Griffiths turning her back fully to the audience and showing the black tank top she wore underneath. She looked uncomfortable in the outfit, and understandably so. In order to give a true performance, comfort is necessary, and changes should have been made to the costume to make Griffiths as comfortable as possible.
In summary, The Vanity Project could maybe progress with lots of help, but it would take a lot of time that it certainly doesn’t have before its run at Fringe ends.
Presented by Vanity Project Productions
Written and Directed by Tim Oberholzer
Playing at the Arts Court Theater