NEW YORK — Underground rock music is literally a matter of life and death in “The Eleventh Hour!,” a lively, silly, messy, entertaining new musical being presented at Town Stages. It’s an apocalyptic science-fiction story as well as a love story, and an opportunity to have fun with mole people, giant snakes and a character who works as a knight at the Medieval Times dinner theater. Audience members are told, before the action begins, that they should turn off the phones or else they’ll be eaten by the mole people.
Featuring book, music and lyrics by David Seamon, and directed by Jessica Francis Fichter, “The Eleventh Hour!” was developed in New Brunswick, and much of the action takes place in that city. Nevin (Henry Fisher) is a rock singer-guitarist who isn’t a kid anymore, but has no desire to leave the rock scene of New Brunswick basement shows behind. “New Brunswick for life” is his motto. Amy (Miranda Luze), his girlfriend, yearns for something more and lands an internship (with astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, in New York) that strains their relationship. “I can’t go back to Jersey/The place doesn’t deserve me,” she sings.
Nevin and his band’s bassist (Brianne Wylie) play their instruments in character; pianist Emily Goggin and drummer Skyler Fortgang add to the music, offstage but visible to the audience.
“The Eleventh Hour!” has minimal staging; there’s really no set at all. And Wylie, Olivia London, Christopher Pasi and Joshuah D. Simpson play a variety of characters, including Tyson himself. Pasi gets the biggest laughs as the comically earnest, anachronistically gallant knight, who doesn’t break character even as the end of the world is approaching.
You see, a black hole is threatening to destroy the planet, though Tyson has a plan to save the human race, and the battleground, so to speak, turns out to be New Brunswick. Unassuming Nevin and ambitious Amy have to put aside their differences and act heroically, together, in order to make Tyson’s plan work.
“The Eleventh Hour!” is too long, its gags are hit and miss, and the rift between Nevin and Amy is contrived. They’re really crazy about each other. Why can’t she just continue to live in New Jersey while interning in New York? People do that all the time.
On the positive side, the songs are sturdy, and the cast performs with infectious energy. The special effects don’t exactly dazzle, but are fun in a kind of goofy, low-tech way. And, of course, any musical that romanticizes the New Brunswick basement scene has a lot going for it from that start.
“The Eleventh Hour!” will be presented at Town Stages in New York on Oct. 18-19 and 25-26 and Nov. 8-9, 15-16 and 30, and Dec. 1. Visit eleventhhourmusical.com.
The shows are at 8 p.m. with musical performances at 7:30 p.m. Here are the pre-show performers:
Oct. 18: Foxanne
Oct. 19: Zero for Conduct
Oct. 25: Jeremy Bass
Oct. 26: Lowlight
Nov. 8: Electric Sensei
Nov. 9: Bryan Hansen Band
Nov. 15: Bobby Mahoney
Nov. 16: Chris Neptune
Nov. 30: TBA
Dec. 1: Tam Justin Garcia