The Overlord: Chaotic Not-Quite-Good

The Overlord, a rock musical based on a comic book character of the same name written and directed by Dylan Edwards, quite simply is bursting with massive amounts of potential, but isn’t quite ready yet. The musical is ambitious to the extreme, especially for Atlantic Fringe. It boasts of dozens of props that look like someone raided a toy store circa 1992, and the most elaborate costume designs I think I have ever seen in Fringe. The set pieces are massive and give off the air of professionalism, and the technology required to put together the elaborate audio and video sequences is extremely impressive.
Yet, at the heart, this musical is still in its raw, early stages of development. The story is a familiar one, a dark overlord has a city of people enslaved and he rules them with fear; it is up to a band of heroes to save them. This musical, however, explores the adage, “power corrupts; absolutely power corrupts absolutely” as heroes defeat villains and liberate the people, only to become villains themselves and enslave the people again. Not even Lady Liberty, with freedom on her side, seems untarnished. The only issue with the plot, beyond a few lines so cheesy even the actors have difficulty saying them with a straight face, is that there is no context provided for this world. We are told that the Overlord keeps the populace “safe” and we wonder, “safe from what?” Why has an entire city suddenly surrendered itself to one’s absolute rule?
The most obvious issue with The Overlord is a massive technical glitch. This musical’s conception is that of the collision between comics and heavy metal musical. The music is all original by Jamie Jordan, who plays guitar in the band Death by Deathray. The music seems fantastic, except that for DANSpace, it is massively too loud and drowns out all the singers even when they use microphones. Yet, because of the heavy metal nature of the music, simply adjusting the volume so that the music is soft enough for the singers to be heard will drain the music of its energy and its signature style. This music demands to be played in a theatre with a pit, perfect acoustics and body microphones so that the balance can be adjusted just right. At the same time, the musical’s songs are oddly clumped toward the Second Act, which seems strange. I would suggest adding some more songs to the middle of the First Act.
At the same time, this musical demands epic battle scenes akin to those in cartoons and superhero action movies. I hate the assumption that some things cannot be done onstage, but here, it is obvious, that in order to execute scenes of this magnitude, an expert fight captain and dance choreographer is needed, as well as actors who are proficient in this sort of work, or else it looks like a bunch of children playing “superheroes” on the school playground. Charming, but not very convincing.
Indeed, all the acting in this show left something to be desired for me. I found that Daniel Patrick Melvin as the Overlord too often used yelling to put forth his point rather than expressing himself in a way that evoked any sense of emotion, character or personality. I found Celeste Dawson played Alice with too much flakiness and exuberance so her performance lost all that is genuine in an ingénue. She does have a powerful voice, however.

This production reminded me of the Mirvish Queen musical We Will Rock You, which recently closed after an extremely long run in Toronto. For me, this production is more exciting because it is so original. I hope that this show continues to be work shopped and staged. If Dylan Edwards is able to procure the professional dancers, fight captain, director, sound engineers and dramaturg needed to bring this production up to its potential, I think it could be just as good as We Will Rock You.

Venue: DANSpace $5.00

Times: Thurs Sept 10 at 7:40pm, Fri Sept 11 at 6:20pm, Sat Sept 12 at 4pm, Sun Sept 13 at 3:50pm, Sun Sept 13 at 7:10pm

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