Theater Review: SHOOTING STAR — A REVEALING NEW MUSICAL (Hudson Mainstage in Hollywood)

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by Marc Wheeler on May 28, 2019

in Theater-Los Angeles


Shooting Star, billed as “A Revealing New Musical” — and getting its World Premiere at the Hudson Theatres in Los Angeles under the direction of Michael Bello — offers us a glimpse of one man’s journey through the world of gay porn. Written by Florian Klein (a.k.a. adult film actor Hans Berlin), this curiosity-piquing production offers the audience plenty of simulated-sex and melodies but leaves them with theatrical blue balls.

Meet Taylor (Taubert Nadalini), a fresh-faced, bright-eyed Midwesterner who longs for stardom. One day he packs his bags, says goodbye to mom and dad, and heads to L.A. to make his dreams come true. After a few acting auditions and no job offers, he realizes that fame (which he appears to desire more than acting) isn’t going to come quickly. So he takes a job as a go-go dancer to help pay his rent. Soon after, an offer for on-camera sex is too generous to refuse. Before you know it, he’s Taylor Trent: Porn Star. He is embraced by his new porn family, adored by his social media fans, and smitten by his first scene partner, Jesse Apollo, who – uh oh! – resists Taylor’s off-camera advances.

Unfortunately, the rise of this shooting star happens quickly with minimal struggle. Because we’re never made fully aware of who Taylor is, we’re lacking in reasons to relate and cheer him on over two long acts. As for our leading man’s parents back home, it’s never clear if he actually tells them of his new profession, a potentially engaging storyline noticeably missing.

For a show self-declared as “revealing” and written by an industry insider, Star is short on introspection and revelations. Its depiction of the porn world is surface-level — nothing that couldn’t be written from educated guesses and minimal research. Drugs, sex, and money? Check. Altered names referencing real-life personalities? Check. Addiction, egos, and lonely souls? Check. Here, insights and lessons-learned suffer into clichés and easy sex jokes that merely move us from song to thong.

And this is where Shooting Star plummets. It takes on serious subjects but has little serious to say about them. While the script examines a time when porn stars were revered as they bravely battled homophobia, closets, and AIDS, poignant moments are few and far between. Topics that would normally invoke remorse and soul-searching are treated with glib callousness. A rampant use of nudity and double entendres is at odds with the weightier subjects the show purports to explore.

Except for a strong ballad or two, the music by Thomas Zaufke — with orchestrations by Matt Aument — is bland and forgettable. Erik Ransom’s lyrics are often on-the-nose and replete with distracting sexual innuendos.

Porn does not require compelling scripts or great acting. Musicals do, however, even when set in the world of porn. While Shooting Star fails in its storytelling, it scores with its cast. Director Bello has gathered a strong ensemble whose talents are undeniable — there’s not a weak link in the bunch. In addition to their sculpted gym bodies, each performer can act and sing and dance. Ultimately, they can’t save a faulty script nor can they translate nudity into eroticism. But they do elevate the production as high as possible.

Mr. Nadalini brings the role of shooting star Taylor Trent the boyish quality it requires. His chemistry with fellow performer and love interest Jesse is tender and sweet, aided by Nathan Mohebbi’s charm and sensitivity.

Karole Foreman is an absolute delight as mr. Sue, a charismatic porn director whose chosen name is her attempt to be taken seriously in a male-dominated industry. Foreman fills the role with heart and gusto, giving her porn family a nurturing, loveable matriarch. Michael Scott Harris gives a layered performance as James Grant, an aging porn star in recovery, especially in the show’s strongest power ballad.

Costumes by Angela Wendt are decidedly revealing and character appropriate. She’s created everything you’d expect such a cast to wear — and not wear.

Shooting Star proposes that porn stars are people, too. But the script is full of mixed messages. Odes of love and acceptance are rescinded with backstabbing and narcissism. And while its “small town boy finds success in the city” trope is given a pornographic twist, it offers little in the way of substance and heart to make such a well-trod tale truly satisfying.

photos by Ed Krieger

Shooting Star – A Revealing New Musical
Hudson Mainstage Theatre, 6539 Santa Monica Blvd.
Fri and Sat at 8; Sun at 3
ends on June 30, 2019
for tickets, call 323.960.7787 or visit Plays411

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