90210! The Musical! digs deep into the cultural lore of the TV show from whence it came, loosely following modified versions of some of the show’s more popular and bizarre storylines, and featuring a handful of the cult classic’s most memorable characters–all of whom are portrayed in gloriously kitschy fashion. Whether it’s poking fun at the famous gun control episode or questioning (not so subtly) executive producer Aaron Spelling’s curious decision to cast his own daughter, Tori Spelling, in a major recurring role, this is a parody full of clever inside jokes and wonderful, deep meta references.
The show is largely ensemble based, and over half of the actors can be seen portraying a secondary (or third or fourth) role over the course of the production. The through-line of the story follows siblings Brandon and Brenda Walsh (Landon Zwick and Ana Marcu, respectively), who just moved across the country to Beverly Hills and are experiencing a bit of culture shock. The kids of 90210 are a mischievous few, drinking, heavy drugs and copulation seem to be there only extra-curricular activities, and based on their behavior towards their peers, they generally seem to lack much of a moral compass.
A mischievous crew, yes, but also a very talented bunch of actors they happen to be. Zwick and Marcu, who get to have fun playing up the goody-two-shoes sides of their characters, are a pair of talented vocalists with a knack for comedy and charisma for days. Alexis Kelley, who plays Kelly Taylor, is the Anti-Brenda, a promiscuous and “open-minded” teen who notoriously slays every man that comes her way, and has her sight set on Zwick’s Brandon. Next there is Alan Trinca as Dylan McKay, the high school hunk who has more depth (parodic depth, of course) than at first one would assume, and whose daddy issues seem to always get in the way of him living his best life.
At certain points during 90210! The Musical!, references are made pertaining to actors or other people who were involved in the original TV series, and none is more self-referential or satirical than Caleb Dehne’s gratifyingly over-the-top portrayal of actress and Beverly Hills darling Tori Spelling. Dressed in drag and sporting a disheveled blonde wig and smeared lipstick, Dehne’s mannerisms are surprisingly spot-on, and his speech patterns are hilariously over-exaggerated.
A further standout performance must be mentioned as well, that of actor Seth Blum who–in additional to playing more characters than every other actor–steals every scene in which he is a participant. Whether he is playing the manager of the local hangout spot The Peach Pit, wearing a ridiculous blonde wig reminiscent of the hairdo of cartoon icon Johnny Bravo, or portraying a certain famous actress in a surprise cameo crossover role (no spoilers here), each of Blum’s characters are fine-tuned down to a T. A personal highlight is that of his role as the President of the high school Newspaper, for which Blum so graciously provides a performance so comical that it must have been ripped straight from the Sunday papers.
When it comes to the book and lyrics by the McSmith duo, 1990’s throwbacks are gloriously prevalent throughout, but the show–almost more importantly–also seems to have a pulse for the humor of today. The McSmiths’ script is filled with cultural references that date as far back as the 80’s, but there are also one-liners throughout that could have been torn straight from the tabloids of today. The musical score by Gleizner is gloriously pop, and more than a handful of the songs contain infectious melodies that are not so easily (or wantingly) forgettable.
Donald K. Garverick (director/choreographer), who is at the helm of the show’s open ended run at Theater 80 in the East Village, seems to have had a blast in his mounting of the production. The humor is tight, concise, and clever and the result is a solid production which–despite a two hour run for a parody musical–moves with fervor and never falters. The costume design by Carmen Mendoza is ironically glamorous, but also fittingly raunchy and dirty when the show calls for it.
In a time when it seems like every TV show, movie, or reality family is being parodied, it is refreshing to see 90210! The Musical! fire on all cylinders. Backed by a meticulously curated script, a catchy musical score rife with irony, and a diverse ensemble filled with talented and unique individual performances, this is one parody which pays affectionate homage to its source material but also stands out as a very enjoyable piece of musical comedy.
90210! The Musical! (through January 7, 2017)
Theatre 80, 80 St. Mark’s Place, in Manhattan
For tickets, visit http://www.90210themusical.com
Running time: two hours including one intermission