When informed that the man she loves has been forced into a life of celibacy, Carolyn (Sally Wells), a young woman in the early 1920s, delivers this in-depth observation: “No wonder he’s so uptight.” Uptight is a mild word for the wracking agonies that pseudo-guru Krishna (Cliffton Hall) experiences in his rebellion against the religious identity imposed on him by his stepmother. Loosely based on the early life of philosopher J. Krishnamurti, Krishna is a fascinating character through much of the first act, until he telegraphs a predictable climax by repeating cliched platitudes from the “let me be what I must be” and “what I needed was love” school.
The show — a world premiere featuring the book and songs of Peter Wells — kicks off with Alistair Tober’s lively softshoe routine. Tober plays a cynical reporter who expresses contempt when masturbation advocate Charles Leadbeater (David Allen Jones) and social reformer Annie Besant (Susan Brindley) attempt to fashion Krishna, a young boy “with an extraordinary aura,” into a second Jesus Christ. As a narrator, Tober has devil-may-care charm, but his opposition could have been stated more strongly to provide dramatic contrast.
The demand that Krishna remain a virgin doesn’t seem like too much to ask when he’s young, but with the emergence of manhood, he freaks out. When he sings “Wrong One for the Job,” the words ring so obviously true that the relentlessly obtuse attempts by Besant and Leadbeater to make him a religious symbol become ludicrous.
As Krishna, Hall is a powerful musical asset. Some of the melodies are pleasingly melodic, and his soaring tenor makes the most of them, surmounting such titles as “What Am I Afraid Of?” and “What’s to Be Done?”
Unfortunately, there’s nothing in his portrayal to suggest an inspiring incipient philosopher. And, though Krishna sings of his yearning for sex, director Mark Papp never presents him as a sufficiently sensual, flesh-and-blood figure.
Jones is saddled with impossible lines, and his character doesn’t grow beyond our first glimpse of him, but he has a rich, Anthony Newley-type voice and excels on “My Master Is Kuthumi.”
Parvesh Cheena, playing Krishna’s brother Nitya, stands out on “Misty Morning,” one of the production’s better tunes. His awkwardly endearing portrait of a sibling shunted aside (“It’s just the way things are, my brother is a star”) is touchingly written and directed; Nitya is the most affecting character in the story.
Everything goes to hell when Krishna strikes up a shipboard romance with Carolyn and we hear the unintentionally hilarious musical refrain, “They’re having sex on the upper decks/the coming is going wrong.” This disastrous ditty is rendered by nonbelievers Beecham (Benjamin Sprunger) and Chumley (James Meehan); both thesps steal scenes early on but go down with the ship on this number.
Choreographer Whitney Shannon gives narrator Tober stylish moves, and she stages a vibrant dance for Sally Wells’ “Throw the Key Away.” The sequence benefits from Geoff Nudell’s seductive sax.
David O, award-winning musical director of “The Shaggs: Philosophy of the World,” furnishes outstanding arrangements that invest “Blue Dove” with enough energy to periodically distract people from such ludicrously pithy messages as “Each one of us is free to be who we are.”