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On Theater: A rocking 'Creation' at OCC

Over 40 years ago, Arthur Miller — long past his great dramatic play period — wrote the satirical comedy "The Creation of the World and Other Business," which didn't create much business on Broadway, running for just 20 performances.

Periodic revivals didn't quite set the world on fire either, but Orange Coast College's Peter Uribe recently experienced an epiphany — why not set it to music? The result is a rollicking production in OCC's Drama Lab Theater.

Uribe's concept features an imposing actor with an operatic voice playing God, a fiendishly clever Lucifer and innocence personified in the characters of Adam and Eve. It's the book of Genesis (up to the Cain-Abel incident) set to a rock opera format and backed by a huge gospel chorus and some devilishly sexy chorines.

Choreographers Shannon Zimmerman and Brenda Rodriguez have filled the stage with joyously writhing chorus members, some of whom stand out individually, to support this earliest of all human dramas. There is a lot to ponder (this is Miller, after all) amid all the sound and fury, and some memorable performances emerge.

Bradley Baker is volcanically overpowering as God, delivering his dialogue with thunderous emphasis, but occasionally reverting to avuncular affection. He also shares vocal directing credit with Shannon Wallace for a show that rocks the rafters of the OCC theater.

The finest performance of the show comes from Stephen Shareaux as Lucifer, the devilish fly in God's ointment, who presents his hedonistic counterpoint with the smooth skill of a snake oil salesman. The intellectual battles between these two forces is brilliantly written and superbly enacted.

The roles of Adam and Eve, who become the show's central characters, are rendered with touching naivete by Alex Bodrero and Maureen Lefevre. Bodrero projects a confused character who can't figure out how to handle this "first man" assignment and is troubled by the "thing" inside his mate.

Lefevre's Eve, on the other hand, is quite eager to learn, even (especially) from the evil Lucifer. Her transference from sweetness to sexiness as she bites into the apple is particularly well handled, and she offers a fine singing voice as well.

Uribe's concept veers into caricature, however, in the segments involving Abel and Cain. Abel (Daniel Wargo) is presented as a nice-guy nerd, with brother Cain (Nikolai Fernandez) depicted as a gritty street thug.

The show's chorus is huge, but three singular performances emerge. Cynthia Aldrich (billed only as Cutie) is a firestorm of lustrous movement, while Gary Roberts does a terrific tap dance as Harry the Hoofer. Tony Torrico briskly leads the six-piece backup combo billed as the Forbidden Fruit Band.

Musically, under the direction of Willie Murillo, the show sparkles, bolstered by some familiar numbers of the past — Ray Charles' "I Can't Stop Loving You," Frankie Laine's "That Lucky Old Sun" and "Feeling Good" from "The Roar of the Greasepaint, the Smell of the Crowd."

With a company of nearly 50 performers, "Creation" commands the stage and often spills out into the audience. At more than 2 1/2 hours, it's a bit overlong, but it's never boring thanks to its splendid ensemble force.

"The Creation of the World and Other Business" — which reportedly has been endorsed by the late playwright's son after seeing the OCC show — offers a thought-provoking take on biblical legend as well as a dynamic rock opera.

It winds up this weekend at Orange Coast College. Special parking areas are offered so playgoers may avoid the crush created by the OC Fair across the street.

TOM TITUS reviews local theater for the Daily Pilot.

If You Go

What: "The Creation of the World and Other Business"

Where: Orange Coast College Drama Lab Theater, 2701 Fairview Road, Costa Mesa

When: Closing performances at 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, 2:30 p.m. Sunday

Cost: Call for ticket information

Information: (714) 432-5880

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