Written by Bob & Tobly MsSmith
Directed and choreographed by Donald Garverick
The latest in a cavalcade of TV and movie spoofs by kitsch mavens Bob and Tobly McSmith, this high voltage pasquinade delivers exactly what its title promises. Sporting a a tirelessly upbeat cast and a pop-inflected score by Assaf Gleizner, the show neatly compresses 10 seasons of the legendary teen soap opera into a brisk two acts. Everything about the series is fair game for ridicule, including the nepotism that made Tori Spelling a star and the crow’s feet and receding hairlines that appeared on members of the “teenage” cast. Of course, it’s all done with a generous dollop of affection and nostalgia for a time when network TV served up guilty pleasures with unabashed avidity. Obviously, some of the japes will go over the heads of audiences who didn’t grow up watching the original series But even the uninitiated will get the gist of the story and recognize its archetypes.
When their folks take jobs on the West Coast, twin siblings Brandon Walsh (Landon Zwick) and Brenda Walsh (Ana Marcu) relocate to posh appearance-driven Beverly Hills. The culture shock has them reeling at first. Raised in Minneapolis, these kids have never seen anything like boozehound Steve Sanders (Seth Blum), popularity queen Kelly Taylor (Alexis Kelley) or inwardly-sensitive bad boy Dylan McKay (Alan Trinca). Surrounded by all these “drama zombies”, Brenda and Brandon don’t have an easy time holding on to their Midwestern values. The twins’ nurturing parents, Jim and Cindy (played by Hensonesque puppets in the plays’ most sidesplitting beat), try to keep the kids on track with a bit of homespun advice. But their frequent bathrobe malfunctions only serve to make things even more awkward. Nonetheless, the Minnesotans gradually begin to feel accepted by the cool clique. They are even invited to hang out at the Peach Pit, a diner run by the avuncular Nat (Blum again). Brenda joins a movement dedicated to making sure Tori (Caleb Dehne) is allowed to graduate. Brandon finds a sense of purpose by working for the school newspaper, where he befriends studious editor Andrea Zuckerman (Blum yet again). Also on hand are freshmen dweeb David Silver (Thaddeus Kolwicz) and his sidekick Scott, whose fondness for playing with his father’s rifle foreshadows a tragedy to come. Soon enough, it’s Brandon and Brenda’s turn to welcome a new student. Emily Valentine (Marcu) proves to be as psychotic as she is fashionable, and when she sets her sites on Brandon, fireworks follow. The drama never ends at West Beverly High.
Director/choreographer Donald Garverick keeps the energy level high, and adds extra parodic flavor by incorporating 90’s dance trends into the show’s deliriously silly numbers. The performers, all of them gifted with Broadway-level chops, are clearly having fun letting their inner teenagers come out and play. They are all well cast in their roles, though for very different reasons. Marcu, for example, is a near dead ringer for the young Shannon Doherty, whereas the gravel-voiced Blum is (to put it mildly) cast against type as Andrea. They are aided by Carmen Mendoza’s spot-on costume design.
The show’s grade point average suffers only in one area: lyrics. Some of the rhymes are extremely clever, as when Nat raps that Drinking Zima will get you “more bombed that Hiroshima.” Unfortunately, though, the writers don’t maintain this level of wit throughout the show. The rhymes can get a bit sloppy, and there are missed opportunities to go further with the characters’ specific vocabularies. Clearly Bob and Tobly have what it takes to ace this subject. They just need to grab some NoDoz and hit the books.
90201! THE MUSICAL! continues through November 19, 206 at theater 80, 80 St. Marks Place, New York, New York. Tickets: https://web.ovationtix.com. Episodes of Beverly Hills 90210 are available for streaming on Hulu.com.