As any ex-altar boy can tell you, there’s only one world religion with the fabulous dresses and conflicted sexuality needed for a big, fat musical: The Catholic Church. In composer-lyricist and book writer Adam Overett’s sinfully silly Popesical, eight clerics compete beneath the Sistine Chapel to be Top Pontiff. Since the recently croaked Pope was quite generous in handing out red beanies, you have a Jewish cardinal (David Perlman), a Chinese Buddhist one (Jason Veasey), and trashy ladies from the South (Danette Holden) and New Jersey (Alexa Green). Then there’s nice Irish boy Cardinal McCafferty (Stephen Christopher Anthony), struggling hard to hide his man love. Squinty-eyed and heavily accented Cardialissimo Francisco Franco (Rachel Coloff, shouting more than necessary) is the creepy Vatican insider who schemes to rig the contest and wear the tall pointy hat one day. It’s Survivor-meets-A Chorus Line for Jesus freaks with a thing for cassocks.
Overett’s music is polished and goes down easy, and his lyrics are cleverer than you’d expect from such a stunt (you won’t see “metallurgy” and “clergy” rhymed anywhere else, I’ll wager). Director-choreographer Drew Geraci’s bare-bones staging has goofy verve, but at 100 minutes, the joke wears thin and a few numbers should have been excommunicated. Still, given how hellish most wanna-be Urinetowns can be, Popesical amounts to a pleasant stay in Purgatory.—David Cote
Click here for full Time Out New York coverage of the 2015 New York International Fringe Festival.
Follow David Cote on Twitter: @davidcote