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Opening — ‘Speakeasy: John and Jane’s Adventures in Wonderland’

February 8th, 2016 Comments off

SpeakeasyBefore there was Hedwig and the Angry Inch, there was the wildly evocative underground theatrical world in New York City during Prohibition. This comes to live in a new production by written and composed by Danny Ashkenasi.

Speakeasy: John and Jane’s Adventures in the Wonderland shares the sexual freedoms
explored in the 1920s and 30s, and how those freedoms were ruined with the end of Prohibition. It is a love song to queer life in New York City and to forgotten entertainers such as Gene (Jean) Malin, the openly homosexual headline act of New York’s short-lived Pansy Craze of 1929; Vaudeville’s famous Dolly Sisters; the larger-than-life black lesbian singer Gladys Bentley of Harlem’s “Negro Vogue” fame; and the popular female impersonator Julian Eltinge, to name a few. The music in Speakeasy is based on various styles of the era, but with a modern twist, including Tin Pan Alley, musical theater, jazz, swing, cabaret, operetta as well as classical and agitprop strains of the time.

It’s 1929 in New York City. John and Jane Allison are newlyweds. Although they love each other, they have desires they haven’t even acknowledged to themselves, let alone explored. But after giving her neighbor, Roberta White, a kiss, Jane goes “down the rabbit hole,” entering the strange world of a Speakeasy, where time and space and identity don’t appear to follow conventional rules.

On accepting a sexual proposition in a public men’s room, John mysteriously slides “through the looking glass,” and in one fantastical magical realist dream night, they explore their sexuality through the course of two simultaneous and intertwining magical adventures. Lewis Carroll’s literary characters and events from “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” and “Through the Looking Glass” are transformed into real-life, historically significant entertainers and events from NYC’s Prohibition-era queer culture, with which Jane and John enjoy friendships and love affairs.

After a night of speakeasies, buffet flat parties, police raids, drag balls, and a bizarre trial, will they reveal their “dreams” to each other and “speak easy” about their truths?

Speakeasy: John and Jane’s Adventures in Wonderland
Theatre for the New City
155 First Avenue, NYC
February 18 – March 13

Nightmare: Horror Show – NYC’s Most Terrifying Theater Festival

September 25th, 2015 Comments off

Nightmare Horror Show

Psycho Clan, the artistic team behind New York’s well known Nightmare Haunted House, has announced that it will shift it’s unique brand of terror from theatrical haunted house to a series of terrifying plays in it’s 12th season, presenting the inaugural Nightmare: Horror Show – NYC’s Most Terrifying Theater Festival, which will run October 7-31.

During four weeks in October, eight new mini-horror productions will be staged by Psycho Clan and various other theater companies. There are four programs, each premiering two new horror works that will thrill even the most jaded theatergoer. Each evening will feature either two or three programs (late nights on the weekends and closer to Halloween).  In addition to the five productions accepted into the festival, Psycho Clan will be premiering three original works from members of the Nightmare creative team including Eddie by Nightmare production designer Paul Smithyman, Me_Irl by Nightmare specialty props and puppet maker Aaron Haskell and the World premiere of Nightmare creator and director Timothy Haskell’s Smile. The other hand-selected shows include Necromancer by Johnathan Frost, Bane from APT Theater, Night of the Touching Zombies from Figment and Anthony Girorgio’s Broken.

“When I started the haunted house 12 years ago we were the only one in town.  Part of the reason I started Nightmare was because I loved haunted houses so I built one to share that experience with New Yorkers. Now that they are somewhat ubiquitous, I am returning to my roots as a theater director in an attempt to create actual, honest-to-goodness scary theater.  Something that has proven to be very difficult since the Grand Guignol, and what I believe can be the most terrifying live experience.  Better than the most spine-chilling scary movie.”

All performances take place at the same venue where the haunted house ran, the Flamboyan theater at The Clemente, located at 107 Suffolk Street between Rivington and Delancey on Manhattan’s lower east side.  All tickets are $25. For complete schedule of events, more information and to buy tickets visit www.NightmareNewYork.com.

Nightmare: New York 2014 (Facebook)

Nightmare: New York 2014 (Facebook)

Review: ‘Ripple of Hope’ at Fringe NYC

August 31st, 2015 Comments off

by Samuel L. Leiter

Karen  Sklaire in 'Ripple of Hope' (photo provided by Karen Sklaire via The Broadway Blog.)

Karen Sklaire in ‘Ripple of Hope’ (photo provided by Karen Sklaire via The Broadway Blog.)

One of my regrets over the past three decades, ever since my daughter became a grade school teacher in the New York public school system, has been my failure to record her frequent rants about her job: the incompetent principals, arrogant parents, lack of supplies, budgetary shortfalls, emphasis on testing over creative teaching, bureaucratic ineptitude, and, even though she mainly taught the earliest grades, the physical violence wrought by troubled students. All this came to mind as I watched Karen Sklaire’s delightful, insightful, hilarious, as well as touching solo show, Ripple of Hope:One Teacher’s Journey to Make an Impact (directed by Padraic Lillis), inspired by her experiences as a drama teacher in various New York elementary and high schools, ranging from the South Bronx to Chinatown. The show was a contribution to this summer’s Fringe NYC after a run earlier this summer at the Capital Fringe Festival in D.C.

Working in a bare room with only a video projector, background sheet, laptop, desk, and chair, Sklaire recounts her post 9/11 travails after abandoning a going-nowhere acting career and a job selling gym memberships so that she could teach drama to young kids. Fueled by an RFK speech about creating ripples of hope in the lives of the disadvantaged and by movies with inspirational teachers played by Hilary Swank and Michelle Pfeiffer, this former Syracuse University musical theater major began her career brimming with enthusiasm. But even before she arrived at the first day of school, her innocence began crumbling when a hooker’s body was found in a nearby garbage can.

Karen Sklaire in 'Ripple of Hope' (photo provided by Karen Sklaire via The Broadway Blog.)

Karen Sklaire in ‘Ripple of Hope’ (photo provided by Karen Sklaire via The Broadway Blog.)

During her well-packed, 50-minute monologue Sklaire notes the aggressive parents who encourage their tots to fight, the foul-mouthed little cuties, the struggle to behave professionally when faced with out-of-control children, the cynicism of other teachers, the oblivious principals, the rapid turnover of the coolest administrators, the threats and taunts from Crips gang members, and everything else that leads her to tears, fears and, finally, self-doubt. The many hurdles she must leap include a funny sequence in which she’s ordered by a clueless Bronx high school principal to teach and present Eve Ensler’s Vagina Monologues (which he calls Vaginalogues) to a class of boys and girls and winding up with an unsatisfactory rating when he’s unhappy with her work. Another tribulation includes being “excessed” from a job and forced to sit in an empty “rubber room” while still drawing her salary, along with other traumatic experiences familiar to anyone who’s seen how the system can crush even the most idealistic of teachers.

Sklaire, a perky, petite, attractive woman dressed in tight jeans, a red blouse, and a close-fitting jacket, occasionally stumbles but her charm and versatility never waver. She mixes in clips of the movies she references, as well as of students performing under her direction, including her Chinatown little ones doing a production of Cinderella. Especially appealing is a section about how she made a breakthrough with a troublemaker who had a Michael Jackson jones, casting him as the “celebrity guest” of a Halloween show; she even shows a video of him performing “Thriller.” She herself does a pretty decent Jackson routine, pseudo moonwalking included, in keeping with an aptitude for vocal and physical mimicry that allows her to capture the voices and body language of numerous people in her narrative, including the potty-mouthed, sometimes drug-addled students with whom she had to deal.

This piece should be seen by urban educators everywhere (the venue seemed packed with them). For all the jolts encountered during her teaching career, Karen Sklaire has sent out ripples of hope to her students, regardless of whether or not the system in which she worked had the heart or wisdom to appreciate it. Swank and Pfeiffer were only acting; Sklaire is the real deal.

Ripple of Hope: One Teacher’s Journey to Make an Impact
The White Box
440 Lafayette Street, NYC
Closed

Samuel L. Leiter is Distinguished Professor Emeritus (Theater) of Brooklyn College and the Graduate Center, CUNY. He has written and/or edited 27 books on Japanese theater, New York theater, Shakespeare, and the great stage directors. For more of his reviews, visit Theatre’s Leiter Side (www.slleiter.blogspot.com).

New York Innovative Theatre Awards Celebrates Off-Off Broadway

September 24th, 2014 Comments off

Contributor Marcus Scott recaps the annual awards for New York’s Off-Off Broadway community.

New York Innovative Theatre Awards (photo: Innovative Theatre Foundation via The Broadway Blog.)

New York Innovative Theatre Awards (photo: Innovative Theatre Foundation via The Broadway Blog.)

It is rare that the underdog is awarded for excellence by exhibiting a caliber of artistry or ambition that may often rival that of the more popular and by-the-numbers candidate. For a decade, the New York Innovative Theatre Awards has made it their mission to shine a light on the work of art created Off-Off-Broadway, by lesser known theaters that are shaping the collective consciousness of theater-making today.

Host Jason Kravitz (photo: Innovative Theatre Foundation via The Broadway Blog.)

Host Jason Kravitz (photo: Innovative Theatre Foundation via The Broadway Blog.)

Hosted by the foul-mouthed stage and TV actor Jason Kravits, the 2014 New York Innovative Theatre Awards celebrated the more common WTF moments seen Off-Off-Broadway, relishing in all of the idiosyncrasies that make downtown theater so invigorating. For starters, there’s Kravits, whose anything-goes-carpe-diem showmanship resulted in a crass, though amusing, striptease. He also dazzled (or perhaps traumatized) in a multi-colored cross-strapped floral skintight one-piece (which by show’s end was worn by a muscular chorus boy.)

Then there was the acceptance speech by the artistic directors of Blessed Unrest, who took home the Caffe Cino Fellowship Award and gave an excerpt of their upcoming 2014-2015 showcase, “Line.” With an ensemble of nearly 20 performers, the stage flooded with personalities of every imaginable form, sashaying or pirouetting into the spotlight to ‘80s post-disco dance fluff and giving a bit of Greek chorus ham. It was out there, but certainly fabulous. Just as fabulous were the evening’s honorees. From Carlos Neto, who arrived in the U.S. only a year ago from Portugal and London on a work visa to Gail Cooper-Hecht, an actor-turned-seamstress who hadn’t been on a stage in over 40 years—this was definitely an accomplished and multifaceted group of artisans.

Among the night’s big winners, were a few special awards given to individuals who served as beacons of inspiration and consummate professionalism. Kevin R. Free, who had to run uptown to get in costume for his turn in the celebrated The Fantasticks, was presented the Doris Wilson Independent Playwright Award by friend and playwright Mariah MacCarthy. Wishing her family a “hello” in South Korea, Haejin Han of the Phoenix Theatre Ensemble was award Outstanding Stage Manager by Elise Stone.

Cult theater icon Jim Rado presented his longtime friend Dan Bianchi with the Artistic Achievement Award. Bianchi, who has wowed audiences far and wide with his company Radio XXXX, recalled how he became inspired to director noir-stylized theater.

Perhaps the most poignant moment of the night was the tribute to Woodie King, Jr. who was presented the Ellen Steward Award by friend and theater giant André De Shields. In an eight-minute speech, followed by a video presentation, De Shields recalled how he was first introduced to Ellen Steward and King, who took the actor under his wing. Responsible for creating a platform for important works like the Taking Of Miss Janie and For Colored Girls Who Considered Suicide When The Rainbow Was Enuf, was well as aiding the careers of actors like Denzel Washington, Ben Vereen, Audra McDonald and Alfre Woodard, De Shields shined a light on a forgotten hero. By the time King took the stage, he was given a resounding standing ovation.

Click through for the list of winners…

Read more…

THEATER BUFF: Adam Kemmerer of “Fabulous!”

September 17th, 2014 Comments off

Every third Wednesday of the month, a fabulous actor/singer/dancer fills out contributor Tom Mizer’s nosey little questionnaire and offers a glimpse of what he looks like from a bit closer than the mezzanine. For September, we’ve got a guy who is truly fabulous…

Adam Kemmerer. Photo by Chasi Annexy.

Adam Kemmerer. Photo by Chasi Annexy.

Name: Adam Kemmerer

Hometown: Catasauqua, Pennsylvania

Current Show/Role: Rock Henderson in Fabulous! The Queen of New Musical Comedies

The best part of the show I’m working on now is: Listening to the waves of laughter my castmates get every night.

The most challenging job in show business I ever had was: I was in a production of Forever Plaid in New Hampshire. I think we had to learn the music and choreography in 3 days. I remember a lot of cursing and gentle sobbing. But it turned out to be one of my favorite productions of all time.

If I wasn’t a performer, I would be: I’ve always wanted to be a police officer. Someone that can help his community. So I think a NYPD detective would have been fun. I’d settle for playing one on TV though.

Places, Intermission or Curtain Call? I like intermission best. You get to take stock of how your show is going and make adjustments for the audience you have that day and you also have one more act to get it right! Read more…

Review: Fabulous! The Queen of New Musical Comedies

September 16th, 2014 Comments off

Broadway Blog editor Matthew Wexler sets sail with the new madcap musical, Fabulous!

(LtoR) Josh Kenney & Nick Morrett in "Fabulous!" (Photo Credit: Rick Berube via The Broadway Blog.)

(LtoR) Josh Kenney & Nick Morrett in “Fabulous!” (Photo Credit: Rick Berube via The Broadway Blog.)

A new musical set sail last week at the Times Square Arts Center, and while Fabulous! may not be breaking ground in the genre, it is most certainly a guilty pleasure worth seeing. Inspired by the Golden Age of Hollywood and Broadway, Dan Derby (book and lyrics) and Michael Rheault (music) have crafted a whimsical romp that draws plot lines and musical riffs from familiar titles such as Some Like It Hot, Anything Goes, and Dames at Sea.

The madcap plot follows Jane Mann (Josh Kenney) and Laura Lee Handle (Nick Morrett), two down-on-their luck female impersonators who bail on a disastrous Paris nightclub gig to headline on the luxurious (in a Love Boat kind of way) cruise ship The Queen Ethel May. Throw in a brother/sister gangster duo (Bryan Seastrom and Natalie DePuy), heartthrob Rock Henderson (Adam Kemmerer) and requisite lesbian cruise director Sylvia Smothers (Jane Aquilina) and you’ve got the recipe for a tried and true upside down cake. But a ship can’t sail without a crew… enter the nameless crew of four boys, who strut, bevel and tap their way across the ocean blue.

(top to botom) PJ Palmer, DaWoyne A. Hill, Aaron VanderYacht & AJ Hunsucker (Photo Credit: Rick Berube via The Broadway Blog.)

(top to botom) PJ Palmer, DaWoyne A. Hill, Aaron VanderYacht & AJ Hunsucker (Photo Credit: Rick Berube via The Broadway Blog.)

Fabulous! benefits from musical nods and story twists that have appeared in countless stage productions and films, so this transatlantic journey isn’t as much about keeping track of the plot as it is enjoying the ebullient performances from the leading players. As Jane Mann, Josh Kenney carries the gravitas and mostly plays the not-so-straight-man to the antics of his partner. It is a sharp, witty and vulnerable performance, culminating in “Just Me,” an 11 o’clock number that oddly appears at about 8:45. He’s the perfect balance to Nick Morrett’s Laura Lee, a big southern broad who likes things that glitter and dangerous men. The two are bosom buddies through thick and thin and manage to traverse high-octane slapstick in heels.

Less successful are the supporting characters, whose one-note performances can’t match the nuance and humor of the show’s two leading man-ladies. As the uptight cruise director, Jane Aquilina spends most of the show fiercely staring past the fourth wall into the abyss of who knows what. But when she opens her mouth to sing her Act II number, “I Feel Romantic,” in a smoky, full-out alto belt, you wish she’d abandon ship and start her own nightclub act.

“The boys,” purposefully cast as wistful, effeminate tinker tots, go through the ranks as back-up singer/dancers and manage to hit their marks throughout, but it’s PJ Palmer (Boy 3) who resists mugging and overzealous gesticulations to stay within the world of this madcap production.

Fabulous! benefits greatly from its director and choreographer. Rick Hamilton, who is also a performer, keeps the production moving at a brisk pace and navigates the theater’s wide stage with ease. Choreographer Mary Lauren brings an exuberant charm to the production, offering a vocabulary of movement that far exceeds what is typically seen Off Off Broadway, though I’m sure she wishes she had another 10 feet of stage depth.

For a fun homage to the old days of musical comedy, Fabulous! offers a refreshing evening of light-hearted fun, plenty of laughs and more sequins than a Cher concert.

Fabulous! The Queen of New Musical Comedies
Times Square Arts Center
300 West 43rd Street
Open-ended run

FringeNYC Festival Unravels Unusual Theatrics

August 9th, 2013 Comments off

Contributor Lindsay B. Davis offers Broadway Blog readers a sneak peek at this year’s New York International Fringe Festival. 

"Manic Pixie Dream Girl" (photo: Chesca Rueda; Illustration: Rob Dario)

“Manic Pixie Dream Girl” (photo: Chesca Rueda; Illustration: Rob Dario)

The 2013 FringeNYC Festival, now in its 17th year and featuring close to 200 shows performed at 18 different venues throughout lower Manhattan from August 10th-25th, kicks off tonight. The engine that drives the Fringe is emerging talent – approximately 2,000 artists from around the world descend on New York City to perform plays, poetry, solo shows, musicals and more. These are stars yet to be born, independent production companies crowd-sourcing to get make their dreams a reality, young playwrights achieving milestones and theatrical entrepreneurs who write, produce and perform their own new works.

How is a theatergoer to choose? The TomKat Project and Recipe For Success With Chef Michael Denardi are appearing on most buzz lists for very good reasons — they both successfully satirize celebrity culture to hilarious effect. If you like shows inspired by show business itself, also check out The ABC’s Guide To Getting Famous and for “The Godfather” lover in you, Horsehead. (No word yet on whether they reenact the epic, bloodcurdling scream.)

From Hollywood to Eastern seeking, look for Melting in Madras and Shyama: The Legend of Krishna, both of which use music to advance stories about spiritual quests and pilgrimages. Ndebele Funeral also uses music — and gumboot dancing! — in this case to tell the story of three characters living together in Soweto, South Africa.

Graphic novels more your thing? The Fringe has that, too, of course. Look for Manic Pixie Dream Girl: A Graphic Novel Play, a dark comedy about an artist and his muse. There is also the play about a Manhattan woman’s attempts at celibacy — check out See Jane Give Up Dick — which you might want to pair with Swedish import Fxxx Me before recovering with Carroll Gardens Aborning, a show about two Brooklyn couples dealing with secrets on the road to parenthood. For something a little sweeter, Australian import, I (honestly) Love Youa comedy about two people who find love after being inflicted with a disease that compels them to tell the truth.

If looking to get political, don’t miss Somewhere Safer, which tackles the dangers of extremism in the aftermath of a terrorist explosion in New York City. For sports enthusiasts (guilty!) you must check out Pep Talk, a fictionalized monologue play based on the wisdom of former FC Barcelona football coach, Pep Guardiola. There is even a play about the rain! Or, more specifically, Strange Rain, a “noir journey of conspiracy about a relentless rain and its link to the 1950s and a scientist building weather-control machines.”

Lee J. Kaplan in "Bully." (photo: www.standuptothebully.com)

Lee J. Kaplan in “Bully.” (photo: www.standuptothebully.com)

Are any Fringe shows appropriate for the whole family? Yes. The Young Olympians and The Most Amazingly Awesome Adventure Ever is described as “Part Goonies, part Scooby Doo and musical fun for all ages” as well as Bully, which chronicles the life of a boy who was bullied throughout childhood but triumphs to tell the tale.

And for that experimental, “I-have-no-idea-what-is-going-on here-but-I-think-I-like-it” performance art piece, I leave you with Morning to be Changed from the Morning to the Morning, or Belly of the Whale and its mind altering show blurb: A Portrait in 24 hours or 25 frames Fragments of a broken Self journey through the hours of a day. 5678910111212345678910111212345 But who are these people? What is it in their language that is so contagious? Don’t they recognize each other?

Enjoy and Happy FringeNYC 2013!

Lindsay B. Davis is an arts/culture journalist, actress, playwright and director. She resides in New York City.

New York Musical Theatre Festival Concludes Season 10

July 31st, 2013 Comments off

The Broadway Blog’s editor Matthew Wexler recaps Icarus at the New York Musical Theatre Festival and shares the NYMF Awards for Excellence. 

The cast of "Icarus."

The cast of “Icarus.” (photo: Chris McIntosh)


The New York Musical Theatre Festival
concluded another whopping year of new works, concerts, symposiums, workshops and readings that celebrate the craft (and challenges) of music, lyrics, dance and storytelling. As you might imagine, the 20-day festival had its fair share of triumphs and tribulations, but all should be commended for tackling such an indelible art form.

The final show I caught was Boston-based Liars & Believers’ production of Icarus. The musical tale, told through innovative puppetry, movement and music is based on the Greek myth of the same name, though this interpretation was set in an unconventional Depression-era sideshow. Nathan Leigh’s music and lyrics have soaring potential, but were somewhat limited by an inexperienced cast. Austin Auh as the title character lacked the emotional connection to the story while his romantic interest, Penny (played by Lauren Eicher) was also missing the dynamic range to help Icarus fly.

As an ensemble piece, Icarus is filled with visual splendor — so much so that I wish Tim Gunn was around to edit some of the creative team’s work. Puppetry (by Faye Dupras), costumes (by Kendra Bell) and set pieces (by Aaron Sherkow) occasionally get muddled, but there is enough genuine, organically created inspiration that you can’t help but root for this production. With more seasoned performers, Liars & Believers have great potential for telling more emotionally truthful theatrical stories.

As for the rest of the festival, the closing night party revealed audience favorites and some forerunners as to what you may see on the commercial stage in seasons to come.

Take the leap for NYMF Awards for Excellence and a peek at scenes from Volleygirls, the “Best of Fest” Audience Winner.
Read more…

The New York Musical Theatre Festival Turns 10

July 15th, 2013 Comments off
(photo: New York Musical Theatre Festival)

(photo: New York Musical Theatre Festival)

Brights Lights. Big City. Broadway is the place of dreams, but many a show has gotten its start with humbler beginnings — including some top-notch productions that began at the New York Musical Theatre Festival (NYMF), which opened this past weekend.

With a mission to “ensure the future vitality of America’s greatest art form by providing an affordable way for artists to mount professional productions that reach their peers, industry leaders, and musical theatre audiences,” NYMF has featured more than 8,000 artists and entertained more than 300,000 audience members. This year the organization was honored with a Drama Desk Award for its continued efforts to create and nurture new musical theater.

Three musicals that have appeared at NYMF transferred to Broadway, including Chaplin, Next to Normal and [title of show]. The accolades for alumni shows are numerous, too, including one Pulitzer Prize for Drama and three Tony Awards. How does this year’s season shape up? Here are a few shows that we’ve got our eyes on:

Boys Will Be Boys
Book & Lyrics by Joe Miloscia, Music by Kenneth Kacmar
Ishmael Gonzalez suffers from Gay-D.D., a condition that renders gay men unable to stay focused on any trend for more than a few weeks. Before you can say “Barney’s Warehouse Sale,” Ishmael’s friends put on a charity revue exposing themselves and their views on loves won and lost (and borrowed!), in this comic musical romp that the Chicago Tribune called “a major hit!”

Kerrigan & Lowermilk LIVE
Now one of the most celebrated writing teams of their generation, Kait Kerrigan and Brian Lowdermilk made their New York debut in NYMF’s first season with The Woman Upstairs. Blurring the line between musical theater and pop music, their songs (including hits “Run Away with Me” and “My Party Dress”) have garnered millions of YouTube views and earned them a legion of young fans around the world. Kait and Brian’s critically acclaimed debut album “Our First Mistake” reached #1 on the iTunes Singer-Songwriter chart, and their musicals have been developed and produced at theaters across the country.

 

"Icarus" (photo: www.nymf.org)

“Icarus” (photo: www.nymf.org)

Icarus
Book by Jason Slavick & the LAB Ensemble, Music & Lyrics by Nathan Leigh
Greek mythology meets burlesque, puppetry, and a folk-rock score in the latest piece from acclaimed ensemble Liars and Believers, creators of last year’s gritty Festival hit, Le Cabaret Grimm. Minnie’s Menagerie, an unconventional Depression-era sideshow, is raking it in with the help of Daedalus’s innovative technology. But when Daedalus’s son falls in love with Minnie’s daughter, the star attraction, their passion threatens to bring it all crashing down.

For a full listing of events, visit: www.nymf.org.

Review: “Spandex, a new musical for all SIZES”

May 25th, 2013 Comments off

Guest contributor Scott Redman puts on his scrunchy socks and heads to a new off Broadway show that leaves him in a sweat for all the wrong reasons. 

(l to r) Will Boyajian, Jerielle Morwitz and Zachary Karon are among the synthetically clad cast members of "Spandex, a new musical for all SIZES." (photos: www.spandexmusical.com)

Where would the world be without spandex? Spandex, a new musical for ALL SIZES is finishing up its run at the 777 Theatre in Midtown West. I caught the show last Friday and sat through the 80s inspired show trying to figure out what this was all about. I still have no idea.

The show stretches and lunges itself into two full acts — a bit overdone for this skimpy premise involving a house wife, Linda, who is determined to reclaim her youth where she once ruled the football field as head cheerleader. Her husband is an oaf who fails to realize his wife has needs and dreams, instead focusing on fixing his car and watching TV. Enter a pair of sassy aerobics instructors who inspire the timid housewife into jumping into a spandex exercise suit and away we go! And that’s not all — one of the instructors has an addiction to caffeine pills (very reminiscent to the famous Jessie Spano freak out on “Saved by the Bell” – see clip below) but must keep up her energy if she has any hope of making it to the Crystal Light National Aerobics Championship, hosted by Alan Thicke (see video below).

The large ensemble delivers bright and energetic performances as they pounce out the aerobic exercise numbers. There are a few catchy tunes including, “My Body Is My Temple” and “Whatever Happened to Caring?” catching wind from the 80s rock we all miss dancing to at The Pyramid Club. Liz Piccoli’s choreography does a good job utilizing the talents of the cast. Daniel F. Levine and Annie Grunow’s book, peppered with political jokes and nods to Michael Dukakis, thinks it’s smarter than it is and is overwrought.

Overall Spandex is underwhelming as a musical and an evening of theater. It’s not cheeky or fun enough to be a guilty pleasure and not tempered with enough realism to be heartfelt or leave with any takeaway. Unfortunately, this musical proves to be as synthetic as its inspiration.

Spandex, a new musical for all SIZES
777 Theatre (Eighth Avenue at 47th Street)
Through May 26.

Take the jump for that famous “Saved by the Bell” clip as well as the Crystal Light National Aerobics Championship, which insipred Spandex, a new musical for all SIZES.

Read more…