Stranger Sings! The Parody Musical
Synopsis: Stranger Sings! The Parody Musical is a wild and irreverent send-up of the hit Netflix series and all its campy 80’s glory. Join Mike, Eleven, Lucas, Dustin, and the whole Hawkins gang for a night of adventure, thrills, indulgent pop culture references, pubescent angst, heavy synth, poor parenting, convoluted love triangles, cheap effects, singing monsters, and maybe, just maybe, justice for everyone’s favorite missing ginger, Barb Holland.
Nothing bad ever happens in 1983 in Hawkins, Indiana! 4 friends gather around a table playing hour 279 of Dungeons & Dragons when Mike’s mother comes down and tells the boys to head home as it is a school night. Along the way home their littlest friend Will goes missing. Sparking this zany, wacky adventure as the town comes together to find out what happened to turn their sleepy, peaceful town into a chaotic land of terror. Despite the severity of the plot, this is by no means a serious show, in fact, quite the opposite. Stranger Sings takes the story of Stranger Things and makes it a Parody of both Broadway and the popular television program.
The cast includes Jeffrey Laughrun as Mike, Jeremiah Garcia as Dustin, Jamir Brown as Lucas, Shawn Smith as Hopper, Slee as Barb, Harley Seger as Nancy/Eleven, Garrett
Poladian as Steve/Jonathan, and for the production I saw, understudy Hannah Clark Levine as Joyce/Will the Puppet. These are the main parts played by the cast, but along the way, they fulfill other memorable characters from the Stranger Things world. Each actor on stage you could tell had an absolute delight portraying these roles. They were funny and in character, whichever that character at the time may have been. The decision to keep the cast small was a brilliant choice and allowed each member of this ensemble cast opportunities to shine and spend ample time on stage. A true stand out in this show had to be Slee as Barb, Nancy’s frumpy and overlooked best friend who gets to live in this rendition of the narrative.
The entirety of Stranger Sings was from the mind of Jonathan Hogue who wrote the book, the music, and the lyrics for this show. The book was filled with moments and lines directly ripped from the television show and made comedic. The songs were brilliantly crafted to parody popular Broadway show tunes, “Barb’s Turn” was able to perfectly encapsulate both “Meet the Plastics” from Mean Girls the Musical and “Rose’s Turn” from Gypsy in the same song. The music was truly fantastic and garnered the most success from this parodying. The book however at times felt lacking in regards to having a straight man to ground the show. Many moments fell flat or jokes didn’t land as hard as they should have due to the material constantly trying to outdo itself as opposed to bringing it back to base.
Stranger Sings performed at Playhouse 46 is performed in the round which led to Nick Flatto, the director, and Ashley Marinelli, the choreographer, having the daunting task of making sure everyone in the theatre felt included in the show. Ms. Marinelli’s choreography played to every corner of the theatre and worked. It combined both comedy and modern dance with the music while giving characters distinct movement styles. Papa, Eleven’s father, moved about the stage using ballet, whereas Eleven did a mixture of techno and hip-hop when dancing. Mr. Flatto blocked the show with the thought of making sure something was happening on all sides of the stage, bringing in the audience to get a different moment wherever they were looking.
Rounding out notable technical moments were costume and hair design by Matthew Solomon. The costumes were close to direct recreations of the clothes worn on the show, while not being copy pasted. For what I’m going to assume was intentional, the wigs were some of the worst wigs I’d ever seen on stage and it quite honestly was hysterical and the best part of the show. The only wig disappointment was Steve’s hair not being atrociously oversized, but that’s not a deal breaker for how great the utilization of the wigs was. Lastly, stranger sings is a show of storytelling through lighting design. Jamie Roderick’s lighting was truly marvellous, from walking into the space feeling like a 1980s basement, the upside down having the blue-ish red tint on everything, it all worked an enhanced as the story progressed.
Overall, Stranger Sings works brilliantly and provides the audience with a good time.
The songs are fun, the story flows nicely, and the cast is committed. Where this show faltered is that it is lacking a straight man to tie the show together. At times it felt like the material and the cast were trying to just outdo themselves and the other cast members, leading to some lulls in the comedy.
Nevertheless, Stranger Sings earns a solid 4 out of 5 stars.
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