Tuesday, September 23, 2008

THREE DOWN - ONE TO GO


As a Silver Member of the New York Musical Theatre Festival I receive a ticket to four of the festival entries. This past week I saw three of my four selections.
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First up was BEDBUGS – “a Sci-Fi Thriller Comedy Rock Musical” with book and lyrics by Fred Sauter and Music by Paul Leschen – last Tuesday evening at the TBG Theatre on 36th Street. I had been at this theatre last year for one of the NYMF offerings. It is a very small venue – perhaps the smallest stage of all the NYMF venues I have been to.
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On that night, the show’s opening night, the audience was held in the equally small lobby – packed in like sardines – as a technical problem with a lighting cable delayed the opening of the theatre’s doors for seating. While waiting in the lobby I was reminded of a comment made by a friend, client, and volunteer at the Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn many, many years ago about the cast party for the theatre’s production of GUYS AND DOLLS – “I haven’t seen so much kissing and arse-grabbing in my life – and that was just among the men!
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As described on the show’s website,
BEDBUGS is “’80s rock excess meets the Creature Feature. It’s 2012 {apparently according to ancient prophesies 2012 is the year the world will end – rdf} and Carly, an exterminator hell-bent on avenging her mother’s freak death {caused by Yugoslavian bedbugs - rdf}, has accidentally mutated NYC bedbugs into bloodthirsty killer Hair Metal Rock Gods. Sweet {read ‘gay’ - rdf} sidekick Burt has a plan, and troubled Canadian chanteuse Dionne Salon has stumbled onto the scene. But will Carly listen to them and save NYC—or be seduced by her own creation?
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The show was a silly mix of comedy, sci-fi, heavy metal and celebrity parody. I especially enjoyed the celebrity parody portion – a side-plot dealt with the Canadian singer and her bald manager-husband with an interest in much younger singers. The singer was performed in drag
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Actor Chris Hall looked menacing as head mutant bug Cimex – somewhat like Dr Frank “N” Furter in green make-up and antennae.


This past week-end I booked 1:00 PM matinee performances for both Saturday and Sunday.
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Saturday was
COLLEGE: THE MUSICAL, book and lyrics by Drew Fornarola and Scott Elmegreen, at the Chermuchin Theatre on 54th Street. A new to me venue, bigger theatre than the one at 36th Street, but frankly almost too far of a schlep. It was next to the 18th Precinct and upstairs from a Courthouse. The entrance was difficult to find.
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The show was written while the authors were students at Princeton, apparently about their own experiences in a college dorm. The show does not identify the college – only that the dorm is in Gauss Hall (I do not know if that name has any significance).

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The “playbill” was bigger than the usual 4 or 8 pages. This was because the “Who’s Who” had a page for each member of the cast in the format of what I expect is a Face Book webpage (I have no experience with, or interest in, such “social networking” sites). One learned not only their professional resume but also their personal likes preferences, favorite movies, tv shows, books and quotes, etc.
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The story involves a new “Dweeb” freshman who attends his first dorm keg party and becomes involved with the roommates of Dormitory 211 and their friends. It seems that only one of the group actually studies and goes to class – the others spend their time playing violent video games, watching sports, going to the gym, partying, and throwing up in their room. In general, as female campus security guard Officer Alice, who lusts for the groups’ burnt-out upper-classman social leader, “College Kids are Idiots”.

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The basic apathy of the students (the extra-curricular organizations referred to include a Face-to-Face Facebook Club and the Redhead Club – no political or social activism) is apparently common of “Generation Meh”. The kids sing, “Democrats are stupid and Republicans are evil!”, so why should they get involved (hey, there is a glimmer of truth in the lyric).
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As I went to a local college, living at home for the four years, I could not personally relate to the dorm antics. However, it was entertaining with good group and individual musical numbers and a talented cast.
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The show was 1½ hour without an intermission. To break up the schlep back to 41st Street I stopped for a late lunch of my usual Caesar Salad, Meat Loaf, and Banana Cream Pie at an empty Joe Allen’s (there were only two tables occupied) on Restaurant Row, counting the number of flops on the “Wall of Musical Failures” I had seen over the years.

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Sunday was
HEAVEN IN YOUR POCKET, music and lyrics by Mark Houston and book by Houston, Francis Cullinan and Dianne Sposito, at the kind of run-down 45th Street Theatre. Another small theatre, although with a slightly bigger stage than 36th Street, at which I had seen a prior year’s festival production.
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This schlep was “more better”. Eighth Avenue from 42nd Street up was closed off to traffic as there was a street fair in progress. No wonder I noticed signs all up Eight Avenue stating “No Parking on Sunday” during my Saturday schlep.
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The show’s promotional blurb explains, “En route to musical stardom in Nashville, The Heavenly Belles – a female family singing trio {mother, daughter and mother’s best friend – rdf} from Heaven, Oklahoma – take an unexpected detour to Kansas City where an unusual inheritance wreaks havoc with their plans. A handsome cowboy, a kindly Miss-Fixit and a "can-do" decorator {the show’s apparently obligatory gay character – rdf} all chime in with the Belles as they face the music (and each other) in this lighthearted, tuneful romp!
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The “unusual inheritance” is the “Starlight Lounge”, a broken down honky-tonk on the shores of Lake Wannalotta on the outskirts of Kansas City, which was left to the daughter by her father, who had abandoned the family years before. The trio fixes up the theatre, supposedly so it can be sold, and uses it to showcase their act. The plot concerns the daughter’s desire to break out on her own as a solo country music singer-songwriter in Nashville.
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Excellent performances, both in the acting and singing categories, by the cast. Of the three shows I feel this has the best promise for a life after the festival.
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A humorous exchange in the 2nd Act – it appears that the daughter and the gay decorator were childhood friends who went beyond friendship during their teens. “You were my first,” the daughter reminisces. “You were my last,” replies the decorator.
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Three entertaining musicals at three small and intimate theatres. And one can’t go wrong with a ticket price of $20.00!
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Next up, in early October, is I COME FOR LOVE, another 1950’s sci-fi spoof. It seems that there is at least one each year. The only problem is that it is also at the 54th Street Theatre. Maybe I will break down and take a taxi.

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TTFN

2 comments:

Bruce said...

Gauss Hall is a Dorm at Princeton University.

All in all, I have to say, I miss going to the show.

Robert D Flach said...

Bruce-

Oi vey!

If the students in the show are representative of the Princeton student body then that institution's reputation has been severely damaged in my eyes!

I certainly would not have thought the song "College Kids Are Idiots" would apply to Princeton.

TWTP