Monday, October 27, 2014

Bedbugs! It's a Musical

Rex Bonomell
Every stage musical is a reflection of its place, time, and culture, and this is no less true for Bedbugs! It's a Musical than it is for something comparatively celebrated or canonized--say South Pacific, Hair, or In the Heights. If I wanted to give you an extensive reading on the sociocultural subtext of Bedbugs!, for example, I could start with the obvious: the collective fear of those dreadful, elusive, blood-sucking little beasties. But then, I could easily move on to discuss the show's reflection of contemporary environmental concerns, the ramifications of celebrity and power, the search for love and sexual fulfillment in an increasingly technology-driven world, and, finally, national anxiety over the potential for terrorist attacks in post-millennial America.

But fuck all that. I'm convinced that the creators of Bedbugs!--bless them, every one--don't want you to focus on anything too deep or upsetting while you're at the show. I'm going to go even further and guess that they want you, instead, to have a great time watching an appealing group of very committed actors perform a show about how a dedicated (if slightly batty) scientist (Grace McLean), her long-suffering sidekick, Burt (Nicholas Park), and the fallen megastar Dionne Salon (Brian Charles Rooney) bond together to save present-day New York City from a scourge of human-sized mutant bedbugs, which is being led by a hunky, preening bedbug king, Cimex (Chris Hall; picture what Cheyenne Jackson and Tim Curry's love child might look like in glitter makeup and an enormous, tentacled headpiece and you've arrived.). 

While it won't hurt at all if you aren't, it might enhance your enjoyment of this funny, creative, and remarkably well-staged production if you are familiar with '80s pop music. The score runs the gamut, from hair metal, to new wave, to glammy MTV fare about making it through the storm and seeing the light, to songs by Cher and Celine Dion (natch) and other popsters who made a living singing about the power of luuuuuurv. Bonus points if you know a lot of detail about Dion's early life and relationship with her manager/husband. 

I recognize that not everyone is going to flock to a show about bedbugs--and that not everyone who does is going to embrace its brand of over-the-top b-movie parody. But those who do won't be sorry. Bedbugs! It's a Musical is great fun, enormously creative without resorting to the slickness (or bloated budgets) of Broadway fare, and can't, as far as I can tell, possibly transmit actual bedbugs. Bonus!

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