“The Last Supper” is a musical about going to extremes

Alex Newell, Mark Evans, Pomme Koch, Wes Zurick, Megan Kane, and Allan K. Washington on stage holding apples
'The Last Supper' Alex Newell, Mark Evans, Pomme Koch, Wes Zurick, Megan Kane, and Allan K. Washington. Photo by John Posada

A new musical being given its world premiere

Alex Newell, Megan Kane, Pomme Koch, Mark Evans, Allan K. Washington, Wes Zurick sitting around a man
‘The Last Supper’ Alex Newell, Megan Kane, Pomme Koch, Mark Evans, Allan K. Washington, Wes Zurick. Photo by John Posada

The Last Supper, a new musical being given its world premiere at the South Orange Performing Arts Center (SOPAC), aims for being a contemporary satire about extreme political positions of the left and the right. Unfortunately, despite the talent on display, the show just misses being good, either as satire or as entertainment.

The premise is simple: five liberal grad students who share a house decide, at their weekly Sunday dinner, that for the betterment of society, they will kill off those who they unanimously deem worthy of death. Their process is to invite potential victims to Sunday dinner and let them have their say about contemporary issues, letting them condemn themselves with their own words. The murder weapon of choice is poisoned red wine, and the bodies are buried under the tomato plants in the backyard. Eventually, the five have a conservative media “talking head” to dinner, and events spiral downwards to a shocking finale.

The talented cast members have strong pedigrees. Tony® Award-winner Charlotte d’Amboise gives depth to the character of media celebrity Naomi Day, although her expert dancing talents are wasted in poorly-choreographed solos. The five students are played by Megan Kane, Pomme Koch, Alex Newell, Allan K. Washington, and Wesley Zurick. In a tour-de-force performance, all of the dinner guests, male and female, are played by Mark Evans. Director Sheryl Kaller guides them through the action of the show, but their efforts to make something lively out of The Last Supper are defeated by the uneven score of composer Jeff Thomson and lyricist Jeremy Desmon and by Mr. Desmon’s book that consists of stereotypes rather than living, breathing characters.

The script has two huge plot holes that are almost impossible to overcome. The first is that, after the first accidental murder, none of these intellectual students — including one who is working toward a law degree — think of using self-defense as an explanation, especially since the accidental death was committed in self-defense. Second, the students, in talking themselves into executing people they see as stereotypically evil conservatives, never consider that their victims have lives and have people in their lives who would notice or wonder about their disappearance. “Evil,” to these stereotyped liberals, exists in a human vacuum.

Megan Kane, Pomme Koch looking at each other and Mark Evans face down on a table
‘The Last Supper’ Megan Kane, Pomme Koch, and Mark Evans. Photo by John Posada

Do not think that I did not take some enjoyment in parts of The Last Supper. I did, but it was sporadic, not consistent. My biggest disappointment was that at no time did the “liberals,” who want to change the world, try to educate or convince their guests into changing their views — the only way, and the hardest, to make that change, and one that takes more than one evening’s dinner conversation. Killing your opposition, as an easier way to create change, is not limited to conservatives or liberals, which seems to be the only point driven home by this musical.

The Last Supper could be much better than it currently is, and I regret the opportunities missed in adapting this musical from the 1995 movie of the same name. If the creators have a chance to rework the show and present it again, I would be interested to see how, if at all, it has been improved. For now, unless you are someone who saw and enjoyed the original movie, I can not recommend making the trip to SOPAC to see The Last Supper.

The Last Supper is presented at the South Orange Performing Arts Center until August 7th. For more information or to purchase tickets, contact SOPAC at sopacnow.org or call 973-313-2787. The performing arts center recommends the wearing of masks while inside the building.

Allen Neuner
Allen Neuner is the theater reviewer at Out in Jersey magazine. Jersey born and raised, Allen went to his first Broadway play in 1957 and has been deliriously in love with live theater ever since. Allen has been accepted into the American Theatre Critics Association, a professional organization of theatre journalists. He has been partnered to music reviewer Bill Realman Stella, with whom he is also deliriously in love, for over 20 years. They live in an over-cluttered house in Somerville.