BWW Reviews: An Eggo-rific STRANGEST THINGS! THE MUSICAL
Random Acts' latest show, "Strangest Things," attempts to one-up the binge-worthy Netflix hit "Stranger Things" beyond just the use of an adjective. Written by Bryan Renaud and Emily Schmidt, the parody takes the TV show's love of '80s film and applies that nostalgia to '80s pop music with new lyrics that essentially turns the events into the show into a full-fledged musical.
For the most part it works. People unfamiliar with the hit show will probably be lost (and I would have to wonder what exactly brought them to the theater to see a parody of a show they have never seen). For the rest of us, the show succeeds in condensing eight hour-long episodes into a tight, 90-minute show without an intermission and much of the plot intact. It still follows Mom Juice Byers (Molly LeCaptain) as she is slowly consumed by grief and a sense of helplessness as she attempts to find her missing son.
She isn't the only one looking for the missing boy, of course. We also have a rather clueless and alcoholic sheriff (Kevin O'Connell). Sheriff Hopper and Juice once had a fling, natch.
A trio of the missing boy's nerdy friends (Jenna Fawcett as Mike, Colleen DeRosa as Dustin and Mariah Furlow as Lucas) are also around to take up the quest. A young test subject and escapee from a nearby science lab called "Eleven" also joins them (Alexandra Alontaga).
LeCaptain has a powerful voice and nails the challenging vocal lines of parodies of power ballads like "I Can't Fight This Feeling" and Heart's "Alone." She plays her character's descent into madness fairly straight-forward and believable (no small feat considering one of the songs is sung to a ball of flashing Christmas lights that her character thinks is her lost son communicating with her).
Alontaga also excels as Eleven; the psychokeinetic science project takes her new-found love of toaster waffles to new heights with a parody of "Endless Love" in which she duets with a lifesize Eggo waffle. The song succeeds in living up to the promise in the show's title. It is truly one of the strangest things you will see.
If there is another breakout performance outside of LeCaptain's, it belongs to Christian Siebert as the tragic, mom jeans-wearing teen Barb. Left alone at a party by her best friend Nancy (Casey Tutton), Barb lements her wallflower status with the song "Left Me Here Along For Someone New" (to the tune of "Hopelessly Devoted to You"). Fans of the show know the fate that awaits Barb and the song gives a fitting send off to a popular character that was never afforded such a courtesy on the TV show.
The boys all hit their marks, as well. Fawcett is completely believable as an awkward pre-teen discovering his attraction to girls for the first time. Furlow, meanwhile, conveys some skepticism of Eleven much like his TV counterpart. Colleen DeRosa absolutely nails Dustin's lisp (due to cleidocranial dysplasia in the show) in such a way that she's never making fun of the congenital disorder.
A point is never made as to why the boys are all played by actresses. Unlike the work of David Cerda, the piece lacks social commentary beyond an obvious joke about President Trump. This is a parody for parody sake and there really isn't anything wrong with that.
Some of the songs land with a thud, though. "Boys Just Wanna Have Fun" (a parody of the Cyndi Lauper classic song) changes the gender pronouns, but sticks pretty closely to the original intent of the song. "I'm the Villain" (song by Christian Siebert as The Doctor) is also a bit too obvious of a choice to parody. All in all, the parody successfully re-imagines the hit show as a late night musical.
Random Acts' STRANGEST THINGS! THE MUSICAL runs through May 13 at the Greenhouse Theater Center, 2257 N. Lincoln. Tickets $20. Call 773.404.7336. www.randomactschicago.com