Recent Theatre Reviews
for Motherhood Later and Theatre for Families
Stranger Sings! The Parody Musical – A Great Night Out For You And Your Teens! Review by Antonia Kasper
Photo credits: Evan Zimmerman: Murphymade
Whether you are a Stranger Things the sci-fi Netflix series fan or not, if you like campy parodies, this show does not disappoint! I had been introduced to The Duffer Brothers Stranger Things Netflix series through my teen daughter who binged watched the tv hit a few years ago. Though the show is obviously fan-based, if you’ve never seen the Netflix hit series, no worries, the plot is easy to follow making this musical parody amiable.
Stranger Sings! The Parody Musical (playing at Playhouse 46 at 308 West 46th St Off Broadway) had me at “hello” …again! Hawkins, Indiana. 1983. Walking through an eerie corridor into the theatre-in-the-round, I was sucked in with Walt Spangler’s scenic design with 80’s eclectic chotchkes perched on the walls, laboratory area, and later a moving staircase, black lit vines, and a rollaway diving board. Colorful bean bags line the perimeter for audience who reserved them. (teens plopped down and got comfortable in the special seating) Jamie Roderick’s lighting design was time-warp worthy including smoky hues, blinking Christmas lights and black-lit specials shifting from a simple, wholesome era in mid-America to a dangerous sci-fi outer world dimension.
Jonathan Hogue’s Book, Music and Lyrics are catchy with a score echoing eighties synth and electric guitar pop/rock style tracks with some musical theatre flair. Michael Kaish’s music supervision, arrangements & orchestrations complimented Hogue’s vision. Hogue’s book plays homage to the Netflix popular series mainly parodying season one’s story arc into an over-the-top SNL style skits and riffs. Matthew Solomon’s costumes and wigs contributed to the loveable silliness. Nick Flatto’s broad humored, yet sharp direction coupled with Ashley Marinelli’s simple, effective choreography are both smart and considerate. There was special attention to actors alternating angles so audience could always catch a decent vantage point of them in the theatre-in-the-round. German Martinez and Cosette Pin’s sound design helped keep the transitions upbeat and suspenseful. Director Flatto’s staging was also clever, using all corners and every inch of the playing space, which kept the show lively and interesting.
Opening the show, four pubescent boys surround and play a Dungeons & Dragons board game center stage mimicking episode one in the television series: Mike was perfectly played by Jeffrey Laughrun, Jeremiah Garcia was the playful Dustin (with adorable lisp and all), Lucas was played by the energetic Jamir Brown and the character of Will, whose disappearance kicks off the story, was played by a hand puppet (designed by Matt Anderson) and helmed by Caroline Huerta. The puppet was an unusual choice but heightened the farcical journey as the audience and I happily went along with this symbolic character.
As the bicycling boys (innovatively using only handlebars- props Brendan McCann) search for their friend Will, with the other characters, they all suspect a nearby human experimentation facility run by the ballet beckoning Dr. Brenner. The laboratory has seemingly opened a gateway between the inter-dimensional Upside Down and normal world with a kidnapping creature, the dancing Demogorgon, (Jamir Brown) who has a dance-off to a rendition of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”.
Caroline Huerta is hilarious with her contorted facial expressions as the erratic, chain-smoking axe wielding, Joyce Byers (Will’s mother). There were callbacks and a musical number roasting the original Netflix actress, Winona Ryder, with her own acting history and near Emmy win. Nickolaus Colon was also a joy to watch as the swaggering, larger-than-life Sheriff Hopper.
Harley Seger was mesmerizing channeling both of her polar opposite characters; the naïve ingenue, Nancy in search of a boyfriend and the reclusive supernatural powered Eleven (complete with nose bleeds) in search of a father. Kyle Mangold switched seamlessly as Steve Harrington/ Jonathan Byers/ Dr. Brenner.
SLee who played Barb, Nancy’s oversized bestie, makes a surprising comeback (the internet trending #JusticeforBarb) quenching the thirst for television fans arc change with some outrageously terrific showstopping numbers.
Barely noticeable through the rousing show, there was a slight lag in the second act which could be easily fixed with a ten-minute edit. But overall, the audience and I were smiling ear to ear during the entire two hour and twenty-minute show (which includes a fifteen-minute intermission). This parody has potential as a staged historical cult classic based on a potential television series cult classic!
This production is perfect for people that grew up in the 80s and their teenagers! (especially those that follow the series) If you haven’t seen Stranger Sings! The Parody Musical, go see it before the final NYC performance March 5th! It’s a farcical fun night out!
Stranger Sings! The Parody Musical plays at Playhouse 46 at St. Luke’s (308 W. 46th Street). Tickets are $49-$99 for all performances. A limited amount of VIP Bean Bag chairs are available for $149. All prices included $1.50 Facility Fee.
To purchase tickets or for further information, visit StrangerSings.com.