BWW Review: SAUCY JACK AND THE SPACE VIXENS Just Need Disco at Obsidian Theater
Summer musicals don't get more "SUMMER-Y" than SAUCY JACK AND THE SPACE VIXENS playing now through August 5th at the Obsidian Theater.
It's a Standing Room Only Production directed by Chris Patton and starring the "usual suspects" for SRO. The cast revels in a disco musical about cops and serial killers set in space. It's groovy enough to be a solid choice if you don't want to sweat outside in a park somewhere, and they have a nice bar that serves cold punch. SAUCY JACK is freaky and fun! Glittery boots, lots of variations on sex and preference, and even a stripper pole front and center means this one is not gonna be a light family musical. If the phrase "think BARBARELLA meets ROCKY HORROR" makes you shiver in anticipation, then reserve your seats now.
There's a plot in here somewhere, but the original production at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 1995 sprang largely out of improvisation. There's this cabaret in space called Saucy Jack's, and it is named after the owner. The bar presents musical talent, but they mysteriously die once they announce they are moving on to bigger and better things. A trio of female cops called Space Vixens show up to crack the case of who's killing them off, and to check out the sexy customers at the same time. Everybody sings disco songs and everybody gets kinky.
Oddly enough this isn't the first time SAUCY JACK AND THE SPACE VIXENS has been presented in Houston, and director Chris Patton appeared as the titular character in one such production which was mounted nearly ten years ago in an abandoned Chinese restaurant. SAUCY JACK fits the Obsidian space well given the intimate cabaret scope of the show and the experience SRO has with guitar and synth musicals. One thing is this iteration feels more rock than disco at several points. There is a grunge haze to the set and costumes as well as the pre-recorded orchestrations. It's almost as if Patton's previous work with the Green Day musical has influenced SAUCY JACK more than its ABBA and Kylie Minogue roots. There's a pop precision missing in some of the show's anthems such as "Glitter Boots Saved My Life" which instead begin to sound less disco and more garageband. I half expected them to start crooning "Grunge boots saved my life!" That doesn't actually hurt the proceedings, but it does give it a different feel.
The cast looks like they are having a great time with grunge disco, and they are all too happy to adapt to this new genre. Bryan Kaplun as Saucy Jack is appropriately sleazy, rakishly handsome, and on point as master of ceremonies for his sci fi sex joint. He's got a neat voice and he's the Frank N. Furter of this party. Playing opposite him is Chaney Moore as Julbilee, the lead Space Vixen in love with Jack. She's gorgeous in presence and voice, and I felt a hint of layered depth to what is otherwise a cardboard character on paper. She kept me engaged, and belted out some of the night's best numbers.
The other two Space Vixens are Faith Fossett and Ragan Richardson. They get improbable love stories, and sing their bedazzled butts off while slinging camp gleefully at the audience. They're super cute! I want their dolls when they come out. Angela Pinina gets the interesting challenge of playing three suspiciously masculine female characters who all end up as stars of the cabaret act. She's a nice throaty singer that could front a Heart tribute band and is appropriately butch when called for. Calvin Hudson is Dr. Von Whackoff, the narrator of the show who is in love/lust with a bartender played by Zachary Givens. They both do credible jobs with characters who hit a climax on the stripper pole with bubble wrap in hand.
For sheer unadulterated joy there is Scott Lupton as Booby Shevalle and Taelon Stonecipher as Sammy. These two hit all the camp notes right, and makes us believe in their characters as two wannabe starlets trapped in the cabaret cantina. They sell every sci fi b-movie moment by widening their eyes and believing the incredible journey is for real. If there's a sequel, here are your stars. I wanted more of them than I got, and my table seating had grafitti that promised it could happen.
Technically things follow the sci fi camp lead nicely. We have a colorful set complete with stripper pole, and nightclub inspired lights to lend it danceteria reality. The costumes and wigs by Rachel Landon are pure pop perfection. Everybody has a nice look and a distinctive vibe that translates in the wardrobe. It looks like an anime come to life at many moments. Eric Dano's choreography keeps things simple and tight. I kinda wanted larger disco moves, but the ceilings would be a little low to have the cast flinging each other too far.
SAUCY JACK AND THE SPACE VIXENS is simple spacey musical fun that should have open-minded audiences convinced all they need is disco. It's fluffy camp that fits a Summer bill in the Heights perfectly. If you dig ROCKY HORROR or can quote BARBARELLA then you'll be in familiar territory. There's an intense love of this material that translates from each actor, the creative team, and how it was directed. Although there is not tons of depth to SAUCY JACK, it's like eating cotton candy in the dark with a really pretty girl on roller skates. It's pretty much for anybody who craves glitter and the endless possibilities of sex parties in space.
SAUCY JACK AND THE SPACE VIXENS runs through August 5th. The easiest way to get tickets is at www.obsidiantheater.org . There are two types of seating - table and traditional rows. Opt for the first row of chairs in the middle, and you'll be in the best seat in the house. There is also on-stage seating for the truly adventurous.