If you’re anything like me, you see a title like Showgirls! The Musical! and buy a ticket without even finding out how much it costs first. The enticing possibility of witnessing a version of the 1995 classic film made even campier with the addition of showtunes is too good to resist, right? While MediumFace Productions doesn’t always deliver fully on the promise of their good idea, they nonetheless offer a solid night of sometimes surprising, sometimes sexy, and frequently hilarious fun.
Rather than setting out to provide a strict retelling of the movie’s plot, the show plays fast and loose with the details, touching on all the moments you remember without getting too fussy about the order in which they occurred or who was there when it happened. While there are events and transitions that wouldn’t make a lick of sense without some foreknowledge of what’s supposed to be going on, it hardly matters, seeing as you wouldn’t attend if you weren’t already a devotee of the source material.
Particular praise goes to the outstanding cast; each person on the Kraine’s tiny stage is thrusting themselves at their task with full force. As Nomi, April Kidwell gives more to the role than Elizabeth Berkley ever could have. Her every line is punctuated with the perfect guttural grunt, glazed facial expression, or inappropriate sexual gesture. Sometimes all three. Rori Nogee, as Cristal Conners, matches her well, slapping on a permanent sexface that simultaneously captures and comments on Gina Gershon’s moist performance. Supporting them is an ensemble of comedic talent, most of whom take on multiple roles, that wrings the script of every last laugh and probably earns a few that weren’t there to begin with.
The writing itself, which blends lines lifted directly from the original film with new dialogue from creators Bob and Tobly Smith, is good but not great. As indicated by the tagline (“Singing. Dancing. Tits.”), the duo occasionally succumbs to the obvious joke. At its best, however, the book is satisfyingly weird and charmingly irreverent, building on the humor you already knew was lurking just below the surface with some fresh laughs you had no idea were coming. Without spoiling anything, I’ll say that a random French accent near the midpoint shocked me into a fit of uncontrollable cackling.
If there’s a weak point to be found in this musical, it’s the music itself. Given the constraints of the space, the players have to forgo a larger band, making do with accompaniment from only a guitar and bass. The resulting sound is somewhat hollow and loose. Especially given how much rhythmic dancing is being done, the omission of any sort of percussion seems particularly glaring. As for the songs themselves, they seemed a bit formless and not always justified. The Act I finale was the first time I felt that the creators had truly used a musical interlude to deliver humor that couldn’t have been earned from simply speaking the lyrics.
While you certainly won’t leave the theater humming any of the melodies (sometimes I’m not sure there was one), I’d nonetheless recommend Showgirls! The Musical! overall. Live theater is a delight to behold when executed by performers with this much dedication, skill, and dare I say sex appeal. (I’d go again just to see Israel Viñas in his gold underwear a couple more times.) The $20 price point is a tad steep for a production of this scale, but it’s more or less earned by the end of the night. There are few other places in the city where you’d be laughing this hard for that price, and nowhere that would also provide partial nudity. It’s bad taste at its best.
Showgirls! The Musical!
The Kraine Theater, 85 East 4th St
April 17th - 20th and 24th - 27th, May 1st – 4th