In 2007 Peter Michael Marino got stoned with a friend and came up with the idea of turning the 1980’s movie ‘Desperately Seeking Susan’ starring Madonna and Rosanna Arquette into a musical using Blondie songs. What could possibly go wrong?
I desperately wanted to love this show. I was routing for Marino and wanted his story in some way to have a happy ending. The show has had rave reviews in the past and won ‘best comedy’ earlier this year at Adelaide Fringe. Perhaps Marino was just having an off day but his delivery was disjointed; several times he forgot what he was saying and for someone who ranted about how the Brits love to whinge he sure whinged a lot about how hot it was on the stage. In his defence the Komedia had made the odd choice of leaving all the lights on in the small auditorium so the audience were lit up throughout. But, all that whinging aside, the subject matter is a compelling car crash of a tale. Like all good stories it is at times funny, moving and unbelievable. Marino is likeable, amusing and self-deprecating. It would be a much stronger show if he just stuck to the story. As so often happened in his downfall, I’m now giving advice on where he should cut. He over ran by about 15 minutes. It’s a good story; we don’t need all the waffle. If the 20 minutes of filler was cut out and this show was tightened up it would be the great show I was routing for.
The show opens with a short documentary trailer about the doomed musical and then continues as a one man stand up style show with Marino telling his story and frequently going off on tangents to chat to the audience. The roller coaster story of how his ‘baby’ was destroyed by a team that didn’t gel, didn’t get his American references and crucially didn’t understand musical theatre is both funny and painful in equal measure. You wonder why he didn’t just pull the plug when it all started going wrong and jump on the first plane back to America. But Marino stayed and saw this turkey ruin his career and his life. He has bounced back and in some ways standing on the stage each night to tell an audience about his personal disaster must be like therapy. He paints compelling characters throughout the story and is sympathetic with his telling; he isn’t out to point the finger of blame. I found myself googling the Director and Choreographer when I got home. Both have gone on to have great careers and yet I noticed neither list ‘Desperately Seeking Susan’ on their CV’s. Funny that.
Marino’s story is uplifting and shows he is a fighter. In the clear storytelling moments where his delivery flowed he had me hooked in and now all I want is a great creative team to put that show back on and I’ll be there. Maybe just not in the front row.