Appropriately opening just in time for the Day of Atonement is the stupefyingly inept “David the Musical.” The saga of Goliath’s killer, Saul’s heir, Jonathan’s – um – buddy and Bathsheba’s adulterer is one of the ancient world’s most provocative narratives, but the modern-dress pageant at the Hayworth Theater is a flat-as-the-desert travesty, perpetrated by four writing collaborators whose names it would be kindest to merely pass over.
“David” appears to have emerged from a time capsule planted in the “Godspell” and “Jesus Christ Superstar” heyday when every campus boasted a team of earnest undergrads hoping to craft the next reverential rock smash. But nothing here is touched by God, the cast of eight shuffling in and out of vignettes too stilted and humorless for a fundamentalist Bible class.
A four-piece combo accompanies derivative songs betraying no sense of music’s having progressed past, say, the second Nixon administration. The lyrics one can make out over the Hayworth’s muffled sound system frequently dip past doggerel all the way to Dr. Seuss: “We need a king, we need a king/We need him more than anything.”
Whatever the material’s merits, you’d think casting a charismatic King of Israel would be job one. Yet Dane Bowman maintains his dim languor through many harrowing events, off-key pipes too weak to get him into the first round of “Israel’s Got Talent.” The script in hand on opening night – shoved under the arm at intimate romantic moments – didn’t keep the thesp from losing his place or words, though it served as a handy notebook for composing the 23rd Psalm. (“The Lord is my keeper….No, the Lord is my support…hmmm,” he mutters with the intense concentration of Stephen Sondheim working out “Finishing the Hat.”)
Adam T. Rosencrance’s helming amounts to directing traffic and inserting portentous pauses in virtually every line. Several ambitious stage fights liven things up considerably.