Written and composed by Bethany, Cameron and Natasha Lythgoe, Pandemonium is a biblical musical of mundane proportions built upon a confusing amalgamation and re-telling of stories from the Bible about the division of Heaven and Hell.
A biblical musical of mundane proportions
Natas narrates the tale of when Hell as we know it came to be. The Seven Virtues try to solve the problem of overcrowding in Heaven, leading them to collaborate with the Seven Deadly Sins. Looking beneath the surface of the plot, the show seems to consider the importance of seeing past stereotypes and not making assumptions based on them, but the execution is rather trite. This production is only a 45-minute snippet of a musical at least twice its length, and the omissions are very obvious as events progress without much explanation.
Pandemonium is neither clever nor clear, and though it's a shortened version of a longer musical, at no point do we get a glimpse of what this musical could be. For seven sins and virtues, there are only six people - five if Lilith is present in a scene - and so, while the Lythgoes may have a plan to create complicated seven part harmonies and counter melodies, as it stands, there's a rather confusing casting deficit and each song and harmony sounds incomplete.
The lyrics are incredibly verbose in an effort to fit some context and references to Scripture in them, but the words get lost against a monotonous backing track that repeats the same harp music over and over again. The rhyming scheme is very basic as well, with the Lythgoes foregoing the usual ABAB scheme in favour of the AAAA scheme that, like the harp, repeats in just about every song. Once we notice it, we can’t stop noticing it, which makes the entire thing very predictable.
Sound imbalance is a common problem at the Fringe, and there’s not much an average company can do about it. Nevertheless, in a musical as wordy as Pandemonium where much of the context comes from the songs, not giving the cast microphones is a disservice to them and us. To their credit, the cast do fight against the backing track and we can see them projecting their harmonies as best as they can.
This musical is in the very strange place of being both incredibly complicated in its story but underwhelming in its score.