I was in NYC for a wedding and some work meetings last week. I was supposed to see Billy Joel at Madison Square Garden, but that got delayed a few months because of some surgery he needed to have. So I opted for a play instead. I was leaning toward Sleep No More (which my NYC friends have been raving about) but then I remembered that my favorite off-Broadway theatre (Theatre 80) was just launching a new pop culture parody musical: 90210 the Musical.
It’s written by the same guys who did musicals about Saved by the Bell, Full House, and the Kardashians. I dare say it is their best yet. Technically, I enjoyed Bayside! the Musical more. A lot more probably. But I’m also a Saved by the Bell fanatic. I was the literal target audience for that show. I loved the super, super random references. 90210 was highly enjoyable and was a better musical. Sure, it helped to be a big 90210 fan, but you didn’t really have to be to enjoy it (the person sitting next to me at the show had never seen 90210 and was still able to follow everything and loved the play). This is at least partially due to the obviously intuitive nature of the plot of 90210 over the first four seasons: new kids come to town, become friends with the popular kids, fall in love (Brenda) with a brooding hunk (Dylan) only to have him start to date her best friend. You don’t need to watch a TV show for that to make sense.
The real life Emily Valentine (Christine Elise) on hand at the performance with her parents. She was nice enough to do a Q&A during intermission and seemed to genuinely enjoy the musical, complete with the 2nd act portrayal of her character.
The cast was fantastic – there were no weak points. My favorite from the Bayside musical, Seth Bloom (Mr. Belding and Tori) was back in fine form as Steve Sanders. That character was fine, but he stole the show as Andrea and Kelly Kapowski (what the play called Valeri briefly in the 2nd act, in a rare nod to post-season four 90210). In a mean, but hilarious turn the play had a guy play Tori Spelling’s character and they called her Tori Spelling instead of Donna Martin. The play ends with the Donna Martin Graduates! plot line, or in this case, Tori Spelling Graduates!
Other than Bloom (nothing will ever top his Tori for me), the cast members who had been in previous Theatre 80 productions (most of them, other than Brenda) were better here. Whether that’s because their performances were better or they were the same but it they seemed better because the overall musical was better is unclear. Either way it was funny as hell.
Whilst in New York this weekend for the Dresden Dolls reunion show at Coney Island, I caught a matinee performance of Waitress. I was skeptical when I first heard of the musical. I'd seen the Keri Russell movie and thought it was pretty meh. But good reviews started to role in, especially about Jessie Mueller's performance. The turning point for me was Mueller's performance at the Tony Awards.
Wow was this musical enjoyable. The songs were great, it was funny AF, and, BONUS!, there were some surprise random pop culture people in the cast (which I guess wouldn't have been a surprise had I bothered to look up the cast before the show). Basically, I felt the same about Waitress (albeit with more laughing) as I did about the Once musical -- it got rid of all the slow parts of the movie and kept the good parts. AKA the musical is a big improvement.
Sadly Dakin Matthews didn't perform the day I went. He only has a small role, but the Gilmore Girls connection would have made me very happy. The random pop culture person who was performing was Jenna Ushkowitz, aka Tiny from Glee. She was great. And she has the best plot line in the play.
The other random pop culture moment on Sunday was less enjoyable. I managed to book my 8pm train back to DC smack in the middle of VMA craziness at Madison Square Garden. Whoops. So that was logistical shit show just to get into the building.