I was at Desert Star on Friday night and Off Broadway on Saturday night. Both were packed and full of song and dance, but thank heaven only one of them parodied the Village People's Macho Man. I hate to compare, but if you're going to see one of them, make it Off Broadway.
Welcome Back Potter plays through Nov. 13. Buy tickets here.
Y Light plays through Oct. 30. Buy tickets here.
Welcome Back Potter
The comedy was so-so, and the references were a little off. If you're going to see this show at all, go for the music and dance.
Choreographer Julie Heaton (Marmalade from My Big Fat Utah Wedding) out did herself, and the pipes on the cast were outstanding-along with Alex Marshall and JD Dumas' excellent piano work. But these are just three reasons the Olio (Desert Star's song and dance show after each play) actually rivaled the production.
The show is a mixed parody of Harry Potter and Welcome Back Kotter. It follows Harry Potter (Bryan Dayley/Jeff Jensen) and his friends at their 10-year Hogwarts reunion. The evil Voldie Barbarino, trapped in a painting from the 70s, convinces Draco Malcontent to free him from the portrait.
"You've got less power than the vice-president of Canada!"-Voldie Barbarino
It's up to Harry and the others to stop both Draco and Voldie, but the play has a lot more Potter than Kotter in it. In fact, Gabe Kotter himself is barely in it at all...just a few walk-throughs that seem more like an afterthought.
We get even less 'Welcome Back' when you consider writer Ed Farnsworth and director Scott Holman modeled the Barbarino character after the wrong Travolta. Yes, Desert Star, there is a big difference between Welcome Back Kotter and Saturday Night Fever.
Still, Barbarino (Ed Farnsworth/Matt O'Malley) wore a white disco suit the entire play, and they don't even sing the theme song from the late-70s program. Somehow they still manage to fit in their version 'N Sync's 'Bye Bye Bye.'
"We don't hate you, but you need to die. Bye bye bye." -'N Sync parody
Other than the music, which also included parodies of Pink and Bon Jovi, chemistry between the actors and just plain randomness were redeeming qualities.
A good portion of the cast made their return to the Desert Star stage from last month's My Big Fat Utah Wedding, including Corinne Adair (Romy Vain), who played Gretchen in Wedding. Almost everyone involved has been in a prior Desert Star show. The actors really play well off one another, and in any other play would have kept the laughs going all night.
I also really loved the scenes with surprise characters like Victoria Beckham and Michael Jackson. The awkward scene with Michael and Harry, where the pop star inches closer and closer to the wizard on a bed, is actually pretty hysterical. Lunar Rover's (Kerstin Davis) random outbursts about invasions by pig men is definitely worth seeing, too
If you're a big Welcome Back Kotter fan, don't see this play. If you're looking for great singing and dancing, stay for the Olio to make it worthwhile.
I had two thoughts going into this play: 1. Another Twilight parody... really? 2. I wonder what part Off Broadway comic relief Eric Jensen will play.
Luckily, it is a good parody of Meyer's work, and Eric Jensen's Dracula drives the entire show. In fact, I was scared the younger cast might be a little lost without him. Jensen brings a lot of spontaneity and energy to his characters, which really rubs off on his fellow actors and the audience.
Dracula reads Y Light (Twilight, but set in the town of American Forks) after he finds his wives fighting over the last copy of the book. After realizing Edmund (Chance Le Prey/Zachari Michaels) gives vampires a bad name, Dracula enters the book world to take care of the situation himself. Dracula's wives join in, but really so they can swoon over the babyface vampire and make sure Ella (Kim Lochner/Alisa Rodgers) doesn't get in the way.
"This book has made people love vampires again." -Fangoria
The opening scene of the play might actually be one of the best I've seen at Off Broadway, thanks to playwright Patrick Gibbs and director Kylee Bird Seguin. The entire cast appears on stage with lights dimmed singing their version of Seasons of Love from Rent, except it's more about five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred books sold.
The rivalry between the vampires and werewolves actually stems from the rivalry between BYU and the U. I'd like Off Broadway to bring this aspect back if they ever do this play again. Some say the rivalry might die down a bit once the Holy War is over, but when it comes down to it, even the school newspapers are rivals...I wrote for one.
Despite the setting, I really felt like the script does a good job 'not' overdoing it with Utah/LDS jokes, which were few and far between. The humor is mostly driven by the plot or a bit of randomness on Jensen's part...and Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer. I know, I know.
"You're like a bad character in a book by a Mormon housewife, who put all her fantasies on paper and her husband is too dumb to notice." -Ella
Chance Le Prey does a good job of following all the mannerisms of Robert Pattinson's Edward, and I loved Alisa Rodgers' (Ella) angst-ridden narration. The supporting cast really makes this show fun, but I was kind of sad some Off Broadway regulars like Eric Armstrong (Friar Tuck from Robyn Hood: Boys in the Hood) and Clarence Strohn (Little John) didn't show. Strohn, in particular, would have made an awesome Charlie.
Songs parodied seem pretty typical of this type of show: Bon Jovi, The Beatles, Michael Jackson and Bonnie Tyler.
The choreography and music is pretty good, but nothing amazing. In fact, sometimes it's just plain cheesy, but in a good way. This along with extremely "special" effects have sort of become a signature of the theater and just add to the comedy. So, if you're planning to see great singing and dancing, please read the review before this one. For a night of laughs, see Y Light.