It would be a mistake to attend a performance of Escape from Bellevue expecting to see a "musical". What you will see is a sort of one-man show with music. This is not to say it is a bad thing, just be forewarned. I am always hopeful that a show billed as a "rock musical" will actually deliver 'rock' - this does not always happen and sometimes, as in Escape from Bellevue, the music becomes secondary to a fun storyteller. So no, it's not the next Spring Awakenings, but it is a fun, entertaining 90 minutes. And during the musical 'breaks' there is definitely a feel of a mini-stadium concert. Sadly the amplification makes it nearly impossible to hear all the lyrics, which may be fine at a concert, but it falls short in a theatrical experience where the words are so vital to propelling the story. The set design and lighting effects are quite slick and the inclusion of several (very) short films round out the show.
Front man of The Knockout Drops, Chris Campion tells a great story. He acts out characters and takes on personalities without sounding at all stiff or rehearsed. You will never again hear the phrases "rodeo clown" or "Yo quiero culear tortugas" without laughing. Really.
The premise of Escape From Bellevue is Campion's troubles with alcohol, drugs and suicidal tendencies that landed him in Bellevue not once but three times. The first time when he drunk-dialed his friends in the middle of the day and said today would be his last "quicker than I could say Sylvia Plath the boys from Bellevue were at the door". Suicide humor: gotta love it. The second trip was spurred by "I'm going to kill myself" thrown at a girlfriend in the heat of an argument.
His encounters in the infamous mental hospital are quite funny, (the Thorazine story in particular is a riot), but despite the fact that he clearly had serious problems there is an emotional 'step back' in that he is telling stories without delving into and sharing the deeper emotions. However, at the end of the show there is a moment - after the third trip to Bellevue when he has checked himself into the hospital rather than being sent by well-intentioned and worried friends - that does touch a real emotional chord. He finds himself laughing "my light was back on" and feeling finally that he is "exactly where [I was] meant to be". When he says he is "grateful to be here", meaning that he did not commit suicide, we see at last the true depth that, had it been explored throughout, could have made a diverting piece into a very powerful show (without losing the fun).
Escape From Bellevue
158 Bleecker Street
Saturday 8:00pm & 11:00pm
Running time: 90 mins (no intermission)