Thursday September 21st 2017

“90210:The Musical” reviewed by Jeffrey Leibham

Somewhat Recommended **   “90210: The Musical” is an unauthorized parody of the popular teen soap opera “Beverly Hills 90210” which aired on Fox TV from 1990 to 2000. Created and written by Bob and Tobly McSmith, the show is enjoying a very limited run here in Chicago at the Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place. This is the same team that has created “Bayside!: The Saved by the Bell Musical,” “Full! House!: The Musical,” “Showgirls!: The Musical” and “Katdashians!” (which is a musical parody of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Cats” as performed by that krazy Kardashian klan). With exclamation points firmly in place, this show is not the typical fare that Broadway In Chicago subscribers are accustomed to seeing. But diversity in programming is almost always a good thing, and this show is laugh-out-loud funny and mindless entertainment for a slightly different evening in the theater. “Off-Broadway in Chicago” may be a more apt moniker for this particular selection, as it played at Theater 80 on St. Mark’s Place in New York City’s East Village.

Following very closely to the series premiere episode, twin siblings Brandon (Landon Zwick) and Brenda (Ana Marcu) Walsh have relocated to Beverly Hills, CA from Minneapolis, MN due to their father’s recent job promotion. At West Beverly Hills High School they meet new friends Kelly Taylor (Alexis Kelley), Steve Sanders (Seth Blum) and David Silver (Rob Riordan). Also amongst the popular students is Donna Martin, who was played by Tori Spelling in the original series. However, in this production Tori Spelling is an actual character playing and  always referred to as Tori Spelling (Caleb Dehne). Just as Luke Perry did not appear on the series until late in the second episode, his character, Dylan McKay (Alan Trinca) makes a late appearance in Act I, supposedly arriving on his motorcyle and shirtless in bib overalls with one strap unfastened. The majority of the action takes place at the high school or The Peach Pit, a 1950’s era diner that the teenagers like to hang out at.

Almost all of the “issues” that the series featured over the course of its run on television are addressed here, mostly in song lyrics or swift references to storylines, including sex, alcoholism, eating disorders, date rape, anti-Semitism, drug abuse, teenage suicide and teenage pregnancy. Missing are domestic violence, racism, LGBTQ rights and animal cruelty. But, hey, there is only so much content that you can fit into a two hour show, especially when your source material ran for ten seasons. The songs, composed by Assaf Gleizner, are cheery and bouncy and the main theme song is very catchy. The lyrics (which are uncredited but most certainly penned by Messrs. McSmith) are zany, wacky and irreverent, no surprise based on the book of this musical.

Some changes could me made to make this show stronger. Brandon and Brenda’s parents, Jim and Cindy Walsh, are reduced to two hand puppets to minimize the cast size. They are portrayed as sex-obsessed swingers who have moved to California for the uninhibited orgy scenes. In a strange nod to the Tony-Award winning musical “Avenue Q” this show steals the disclaimer that it contains puppet nudity. Only in the scenes with the senior Walshes does the material go too far and veer into the area of very bad taste. Why not just eliminate these segments? Also, the end of Act I needs a bigger number to close it with. Brenda has decided to leave the show and should feature a bravura turn by Ms. Marcu, who is clearly capable of it. However, we are left with a lame “We Are Drama Zombies” number that just fizzles out as the house lights come up for intermission.

Mr. Blum, who portrays multiple characters including Andrea Zuckerman (who is the editor of the school’s newspaper and has a secret crush on Brandon) gives by far the broadest performance here. However, his singing voice may be the strongest amongst his castmates and he does lovely work with his falsetto in his big second act number playing Andrea. If Ms. Kelley controlled the show during the first act then it’s Ms. Marcu who dominated the second half. She reappears as the manic-depressive character Emily Valentine complete with platinum spiked hair and struts across the stage and shimmies herself into a mad frenzy of hilarious mental instability. Her “bad girl” also gets to sing one of the show’s best songs (“U4EA” which is a drug that she has sold to her fellow classmates and which she used to spike the “clean teen” Brandon’s drink). Mr. Dehne milks all of the laughs he can get in a hammy portrayal of the spoiled little rich girl. Mr. Zwick and especially Mr. Trinca excude the smoldering sexuality that made their counterparts teenage heart throbs. They both get to display their muscular physiques, a tribute to the countless hours that they have both clearly spent in the gym.

If you are a rabid fan of “Beverly Hills 90210” you had better rush to get your tickets to see this madcap romp. It is only in town until Sunday, the 17th-

Performances are:

Fridays  7:30 p.m.

Saturday  2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.

Sunday  2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.

Running time 1 hour and thirty minutes, with one intermission (to sell drinks and “stuff”)

Tickets range from $35 and can be purchased at the box office of the Broadway Playhouse located at 175 East Chestnut (just East of Michigan Avenue, adjacent to Water Tower Place Center, of by calling 1-800-745-3000, or by visit http://www.BroadwayInChicago.comor www.Ticketmaster.com

To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-Up and click at “90210: The Muscial”

 

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