After four years at Yale, I’ve pretty much mastered the delicate art of argument via tangent. Yet I will forever marvel at the merging of culturally iconic science fiction, interpretive dance and Bruce Springsteen in one grand, theatrical tribute to pre-pubescent nostalgia.
Creators Jonathan Goldman ’09, Nozlee Samadzadeh-Hadidi ’10, Michelle Schorn ’09, Spencer Stackhouse ’09 and Sarah Thompson ’12 have my regards.
Their collaborative work, “Brilliant Disguise: An Animorphs Musical” was inspired under the influence … of vertigo. Sitting atop a roof before the start of classes, the group decided to create a space to enjoy the 54-volume Scholastic book and TV series by forming an “Animorphs” Appreciation Club and composing a 45-minute musical. The bridge between these decisions remains unclear.
The friends ordered all 54 books and set about the difficult process of making feasible the staged representation of a five-year serial narrative that details the lives of ordinary teens endowed with extraterrestrial animal morphing powers, which they channel to thwart an invading alien menace. The narrative traces their ever-changing lives as they mature amid an ongoing war to save the Earth. “Animorphs” explores the effects of puberty, affection and loss … in a series of lightweight paperbacks.
After an unconventional process involving the input of a improv comedy troupe-laden cast, the group eventually culled a cohesive storyline. Creators described the final project as “an organic whole” that was consistently updated as late as the final week before its premiere.
“It’s evolved … morphed … as they’ve thought about it,” Thompson described.
The musical’s creators insist that the production represents a single chapter in the “Animorphs” saga. It is neither the introduction nor the conclusion.
“We encourage people to make sequels or prequels,” Stackhouse said.
Indisputably self-conscious in its appeal, “Brilliant Disguise” is a novelty act.
Ripe with Goldman and Stackhouse-amended lyrical gems, like “Born homosapien/ Now I morph whenever I can,” (as set to the Boss’s “Born in the USA”) the production aims for laughter, and little else. The degree to which it succeeds is entirely dependent upon its audience. Those who loved the series as kids will at least appreciate the show for its invocation of stylized reverie.
“Brilliant Disguise” is a feel-good show — primarily by virtue of its ability to conjure images from our youth. It borders on the farcical, yet fails to make the leap. The result is a production best enjoyed with ample forewarning: “Brilliant Disguise” certainly doesn’t take itself seriously, and neither should you.