Disco Jesus and the Apostles of Funk
by John Stoltenberg
This funky-soul show has some rousing numbers that will get your soul outta whatever funk it’s in. But as a musical, it ain’t no Godspell or Jesus Christ Superstar. The story line is meh; the structure, tiring; and the characters, annoying (most of the men seem a-holes; most of the women, doormats). Even leaving aside the sweltering sauna inside the Baldacchino Gypsy Tent during opening matinee, there was a lot to endure about Disco Jesus and the Apostles of Funk. But lordy does it have a Mary to hail.
Her name is Felicia Curry, and she has a voice that’s celestial. She plays Mary, a naive singer whom the swaggering Jesus dude entices into trying out to front his new Apostles of Funk band. (About the only thing biblical in the show is some borrowed names and bad pothead puns about getting “stoned.”)
“I auditioned for American Idol once,” Mary tells Jesus innocently. The line gets a knowing chuckle—because Curry could actually be an Idol contender. Even if the tent temp was steamier, the chance to behold Curry’s soaring performance would still be worth it.
I’m a huge fan of Capital Fringe, and heaven knows it can be a haven for vanity producing. So Disco Jesus can perhaps be forgiven for seeming a vehicle for Vaughn Irving, who not only wrote the lyrics and so-so book and co-wrote the not-bad music but also plays the eponymous Jesus (though not terribly well; he kinda puts the mess in messianic). If this show ever has another incarnation, Irving could do it and himself a favor by casting someone else.
Though no one on stage held a candle to Curry, there were a few who came close. Among them was guitarist Matthew Schleigh, who has some phenomenal pipes (he doubles as The Face, one of several sleazeball men who fancy themselves god’s gift to women). And Suzanne Edgar plays some transcendent sax. Her mean, wailing solo darn near brought down the tent (though why, during it, were three women all over Edgar emulating some horndog’s idea of a lesbian orgy?).
Have I mentioned that the sexual politics of this show are really retro? Yeah, they sorta suck. But blessedly Mary can save you from all that.