MacKenzie Mauzy and Emily Padgett in White Noise
(© Carol Rosegg)
MacKenzie Mauzy and Emily Padgett in White Noise
(© Carol Rosegg)
We'll start with the good news. White Noise, the Broadway-bound musical getting its world premiere at Chicago's Royal George Theatre, is fabulously produced. As staged by director and choreographer Sergio Trujillo, it's 100 minutes of slam-bang, high-tech, rock-concert-style wizardry that never stops to catch its breath. The cast of 21 is over-the-top with talent, with not a weak performance in the bunch. Unfortunately, the show too often substitutes in-your-face attitude for actual depth.

White Noise is inspired by the relatively brief career of the white supremacist niche rock group Prussian Blue, a band built around two blond-haired sisters that flourished in a limited market for about six years before disappearing. The musical takes the notion of the sisters, now called Eva (Mackenzie Maury) and Eden (Emily Padgett), and adds a neo-Nazi brother named Duke (Patrick Murney) and puts them under contract to an amoral and cynical producer, Max (Douglas Sills) who promotes them into the rock music mainstream.

The show opens with something like a rock version of The Producers' "Springtime for Hitler," complete with jack-booted dancers, called "Welcome to Auschwitz." It's an offensive gut punch that must be taken as satire -- the beginning of a show that is meant to evolve as "what if" nightmare.

But after the first 25 minutes, the show becomes more and more earnest, playing the bullying cynicism of Max against those trying to control his market-driven ethics. The show's focus also narrows to Duke and Eva, while Eden finds love with songwriter Jake (Eric William Morris), who may be a Jew.

Meanwhile, Max also promotes an African-American singing act and forces Dion (Wallace Smith) and Tyler (Rodney Hicks) to abandon their mainstream sound in favor of thug hip-hop. Their hit song, "Nigger Gonna' Shoot the Whiteboy," is as offensive as anything White Noise does. Everyone distrusts and disagrees with Max, but they step to his drum, lured by money and fame. However, there's ample evidence that Jake is a gifted songwriter and producer who could cut a deal anywhere, so it isn't plausible that he'd stay the course with Max.

Indeed, White Noise moves so fast that character motivation is left in the dust. For example, we're given only the flimsiest reason why Eva, Eden, and Duke are white supremacists, and Duke's final action is telegraphed long before it happens. Max also ends up a one-note character, despite the strength of Sills' sharp performance. And while we're told Jake and Eden are in love, not only do we never see it -- they never even have a love song.

Without question, many audience members -- especially those who like rock-driven musicals -- will enjoy the well-structured songs by Robert Morris, Steven Morris, and Joe Shane, most notably, the two big showstoppers: "Mondays Suck" and "Hip-Hop Country."

Still, a lot more plot development is necessary if White Noise really wants to make a big noise on Broadway.