The notorious camp classic gets a great off-Broadway musical reboot.
It’s been years since I’ve seen Showgirls, and I can’t say I’ve given the movie much thought since then. The notoriously awful flop which ruined Elizabeth Berkeley’s career (and just as she finally graduated from Bayside High!) has become a cult favorite for the hate-watching crowd.
Showgirls the Musical, now playing at the Kraine Theater, has elevated mocking the movie to a true art form, and done what should be impossible: making the story fun. Due to Berkeley’s horrendous acting, watching the movie can be a drag, as her grating histrionics taint virtually every scene. But what slaughtered the movie proved miraculous for this hilarious new spoof show, because star April Kidwell, who plays Nomi with an unstoppable, frenzied insanity, is fantastic in this role.
Kidwell is a fearless comedic actress, never shying away from doing a full scene topless (which she and the other women in the ensemble do, many times) or licking a rusty-looking stripper pole, despite the hysterical pleas to cease and desist from an onstage soul-singing doctor (who got his PhD from an online university.) She’s the kind of actress who can crack up an audience with nothing more than an exasperated grunt and is, quite frankly, perfect in this role. The fact that she bears a striking resemblance to Berkeley just sweetens the deal.
Most of the show’s humor is derived by referencing (sometimes verbatim) lines and moments from the movie’s script. Even though it had been years, hearing those lines onstage instantly brought back the memories of the movie I had apparently suppressed. I thought it a risky move for the writers, as it presumes the audience’s familiarity. But when I asked my companion (who had never seen the show) what he thought, he couldn’t answer, because he was still wiping away tears of laughter. It’s that damn funny.
The supporting cast is uniformly energetic, sassy, and hilarious, most notably Rori Nogee as the predatory vamp Crystal Conners played with such … weirdness … by Gina Gershon in the film. Marcus Desion is terrific in the dual role of Molly and James. Amanda Nichols and Natalie Wagner are fun as feuding showgirls, and Israel Vinas shows off his impressive vocal range and comedic styling in a variety of roles (as well as doing the heavy lifting in the beefcake department, being the only showboy to strip down to a gold Speedo.) As for the Kyle MacLachlan role, well, who really remembers what that character’s name was? I don’t, and you probably don’t either, which is why his character is named Kyle MacLachlan in the show, and actor John Elliot delivers the goods.
And yes, they f**k in a pool.
With Showgirls and the their previous spoof, Saved by the Bell-skewering Bayside! The Unmusical, writer/director/pit musicians Bob and Tobly McSmith are surely names to remember for off-off-Broadway trashy fun. Showgirls the Musical is highly recommended.