Set in an America where nuclear war broke out in the 1950s and the survivors have been living in a crater to hide from the fallout, this musical doesn’t quite manage to live up to its premise.
The world-building of Radiation Falls, the town in the crater where life is brutal and oppressive as there is never quite enough to go around, is well-developed and interesting. However, despite the protagonists’ ages being set around 19, the dialogue’s relentless use of profanity and continual railing against parents as the source of all the world’s ills makes them come across as closer to 14, perhaps even younger and childish. The love story of Jesse and Laurie is sweet but not particularly interesting; much more compelling is the tragic tale of Freddie and Michael. But it is Kirsten Obank as Hope who steals the show. Her voice is the strongest of the cast and when she sings of her dreams the result is truly moving.
Radiation, mutation, and on-stage wrist-slashing do not make for a cheerful musical, though the contrast with the 1950s styling and inspirational radio broadcasts neatly shows up the hypocrisy of the American Dream. There are some good performances here, and some good ideas, but unfortunately ‘1000 Suns’ is overall rather unmemorable.