BWW Reviews: Steamy Shadowbox Live's 'Between the Sheets' will Melt your Winter Blues Away
Shadowbox Live began the run of it its latest production, "Between the Sheets" last night. In its tried-and-true sketch comedy/rock 'n roll format, "Between the Sheets" focuses on sex, love, and romance- well, mostly on the former. Aimed at heating up the chilly winter season, "Between the Sheets" is a great night of entertainment as a date night with your significant other, or a girls-night out, as many of the sketches poke fun at the Mars vs. Venus communication problems of the two sexes. The sold-out show played well to an audience who seemed in the mood for some post-holiday cheer.
The usually stellar Nikki Fagin led off with a tough opener in Carrie Underwood's, "Before He Cheats". So overplayed on the radio that Underwood's vocal are burned into the brains of nearly everyone, Fagin did a respectable job, particularly on the chorus, but the number as a whole offered an unfortunately slow start to the evening. Def Leppard's 'Hysteria" with nice vocals by Leah Haviland, was a rather lackluster song choice, save a well-done guitar solo, while powerhouse singer Amy Lay delivered a provocative George Michael's "I Want Your Sex" with smooth choreography by Katy Psenckica. The best of Act I's musical choices was a surprisingly understated Kings of Leon's "Sex on Fire", with a sultry and superb Jennifer Hahn, complimented by the silky smooth vocals of Jamie Barrow- arguably the best musical number of the evening. The phenomenal Julie Klein did her best to revive ZZ Top's "A Fool for Your Stockings", and the equally adept JT Walker III rocked out "Darling Nikki" by Prince & the Revolution, but the best musical number of Act II went to the exceptional Noelle Grandison with a flawless version of Peter Gabriel's "In Your Eyes". There isn't much that Grandison can't sing the pants off of, but the choreography here, reminiscent of Pink's AMA version of "Try"- minus the fire and furniture smashing- took this number from great to phenomenal.
Sketch comedies for the evening faired better overall. A campy, "Sedrick's Sex Talk" produced a few giggles, with Jimmy Mak, Julie Klein, and David Whitehouse playing roles with which they are well-accustomed, as well as ever. The recurring sketches of "1-900-22-NERDY"- a 1-900 number that connects the socially inept with hot women again produced a few giggles, but Act I's "Spazoids- Damsels and Dates", a sketch involving three Dungeons and Dragons buddies venturing into the adventure game version of dating was uproariously funny and incredibly well-played by Jimmy Mak, David Whitehouse, and JT Walker III. Again, Julie Klein and Katy Psenicka did their best with "Maureen and Buffy" as a catty, rich wife and her snooty friend forced to attend her wandering husband's Valentine's Party, but the sketch never really took off. Tom Cardinal and Katy Psenicka as "Gary and Galinda" in the "Animal Planet" sketch benefitted from some predictable, but funny writing during an exotic pet week piece that entertained callers questions on a parrot prone to biting, and antisocial beaver, and a West-Virginian with a sheep "issue". Spoofs on apps for "Translate-Her" and "Him-terpreter" where downloaded apps help Jimmy Mak, Amy Lay, Nikki Fagin, and David Whitehouse translate what the opposite sex is really saying where timely and funny, but again predictable. One of the wittier sketches, "Wingman for Hire", has a jerk-for-hire (Jamie Barrow) paid to go into a club and set the stage for a nerd, (Robbie Nance) to swoop in and score with a girl (Noelle Grandison). Shadowbox's SCRAWL genius comedy team created some mildly funny sketches this round, but few that were truly side-splitting.
Shadowbox Live is as much known for its "pushing of the limits", and propensity towards being delightfully improper, as it is for Broadway-caliber musical and dance talent, and this show still has all of what makes Shadowbox fabulous, just a little less so than typically their style. Sketches were more often low-brow and predictable than Shadowbox's usual sophisticated wittiness, perhaps playing to a younger crowd with its more libidinous theme. And while the ensemble is insanely talented vocally, the attempt to pull selections that fit the theme resulted in numbers that while good, didn't leave me blow away with "Between the Sheets". However, I left again wondering why anyone would choose to spend their entertainment dollars on a movie when we have such an incredible live venue like Shadowbox- an interactive, guaranteed pleasure of an evening- right in our backyard. "Between the Sheets" may not be a Shadowbox Full Monty, but it will definitely knock your socks off, and will provide just enough heat to melt your winter blues away.
"Between the Sheets" is playing at the Shadowbox Live theater at 503 S. Front StreetColumbus, Ohio43215, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30pm & 10:30pm, now through March 9th. For more information and to reserve tickets, go to : http://www.shadowboxlive.org/.