BWW Review: Things Get Freaky at STRANGER SINGS! at Feinstein's/54 Below
Have you ever wondered who the Demogorgon gets freaky with in the shadows of The Upside Down? No? Me neither... until I watched Stranger Sings! at Feinstein's/54 Below last Thursday. To say it was a wild ride is putting it mildly.
The parody of the hit Netflix TV show, Stranger Things is a love letter the show, the fans, and the memes Steve inspired. Everyone has daddy issues these days, amiright?
Going into the show, I had no idea what to expect. I purposefully avoided videos of the OG performance in October to go in with a clean slate, making every belted note a thrill. To say the vocals were on-point is putting it mildly. Sometimes parodies put more emphasis on the humor than the actual music, making them one-sided performances. However, every single member of this cast had a chance to shine and every time I was convinced that "this" song had to be the showstopping number, another would follow. Nothing sums it up better than the messy notes I scribbled in the darkened theater: vocals = fire.
That being said, the highlight for me was undoubtedly the Winona Ryder montage that featured a snowy tribute to Edward Scissorhands. I may or may not have spent Christmas night rewatching the movie and playing "Ice Dance" until I cried myself to sleep (I really need to find a less depressing holiday tradition). Just like in Stranger Things, musical Joyce (Christina Bianco) stole the show every time she graced the stage with her manic demeanor and stage-four bedhead.
Despite the cast being very visibly not children, the characterization is spot-on. Given that the plot was encompassing two seasons of TV into a small timeframe, writer Jonathan Hogue (who also played Steve) did a phenomenal job seamlessly (and hilariously) weaving the plot together into a cohesive script and score. My plus-one loved and understood the musical without having seen the source material and left the club for a prompt Netflix binge.
Honestly, what could go wrong with a show that has the lines, "The boys will run and cower when they see our lady power"? Parodies, especially ones in the horror genre, have a tendency to fall back on the "women are frail and powerless" trope to gain cheap laughs. I was pleasantly surprised that Stranger Sings! is a feminist powerhouse show. Between giving Barb (Savannah-Lee Mumford) a voice, actual stage time, and some mildly-questionable alone time with the Demogorgon, to Dustin's candid ballad begging Steve to stop being a sexist dink, the show became more than a parody - it became a statement. We do deserve unlimited cookie dough, Dustin. Thank You.
Despite being born shortly after their demise, the '80s are one of my favorite decades. The massive hair and the tragically wonderful fashion? Sign me up. Dustin (Patrick Howard) said it best: "Bye mom, I've got to go into the dark woods. Man, I love the '80s." Yes, Dustin. You had it easy. I couldn't even go to the mall without fifteen phone calls home. Of course, I also never had to fight off a weird plant demon (Michael Pigliavento) salaciously dancing to "Thriller," so I guess there's that.
But most importantly? Steve adopted Dustin and that's all we ever needed in our lives.
Photo Credit: BWW