BWW Review: Not To Be Missed NEVER BEEN KISSED - THE UNAUTHORIZED MUSICAL At Rockwell
The musical parodies hits just keep coming at Rockwell Table & Stage! Popular (sometimes cult) flicks get infused with pop songs resulting in a new twist on the film, and sometimes on the songs. With NEVER BEEN KISSED - THE UNAUTHORIZED MUSICAL, cleverly written by Jordan Ross Schindler, the vocally-gifted, triple-threat cast perform their most entertaining, live, in-your-face version of Drew Barrymore's 1999-starrer Never Been Kissed. Plot centers around Josie, a budding journalist, who goes undercover at her former high school for an investigative report on non-specific teen life. (Josie hasn't figured out her angle of her story yet.) Josie's re-entry into high school life, brings back memories of her own high school experiences - being a nerd, an outcast who's bullied by the popular cliques.
Emma Hunton expertly directs songs, the snark, the serious moments at a neck-breaking pace, utilizing not only the stage, but the various nooks and tables of the Rockwell room. Mallory Butcher provides the sometimes cheeky, always fun, never simplistic choreography handled effortlessly by all the ensemble.
And what an ensemble! This cast of eight sing together, dance together and support each other seamlessly in backup harmony or complementary dance moves.
Lana McKissack with her gorgeous, powerful vocals IS Josie. McKissack transparently exhibits Josie's naivety, her initial joy in being acceptable, her hurt in being bullied and her determination in standing up for herself. McKissack transforms Whitney Houston's mega-dance-hit "I Wanna Dance (With Somebody)" into a heart-ripping lament on nobody asking her to dance. Brava, Ms. Lana McKissack! Other stand-out solos for McKissack include Elton John's "I'm Still Standing,' and Roxette's "It Must Have Been Love."
Natalie Masini, Amanda Shechtman and Markesha Chatfield so vividly embody the deliciously mean girl clique. As a combined force to be reckoned with, they sing and dance their booties off in Aqua's "Barbie Girl" and RuPaul's "Supermodel (You Better Work)." Masini and Shechtman duet in a tender, intimate Foreigner's "I Want To Love What Love Is." In her multiple roles, Shechtman commands the stage as the very funny, very graphic, unintentional sex education teacher in "Pam Kitterman Talks About Sex," and as the teenager horny for newly arrived jock Rob in The Human League's "Don't You Want Me."
Matt Shively as Rob grabs his moments in the spotlight in Bruce Springsteen's "Glory Days," The Offspring's "Pretty Fly For A White Guy," and The Police's "Don't Stand So Close To Me," while showcasing his comic chops as the intentionally disgusting Rigfort.
Also with sharp comic chops, Katie Self in her multiple roles as the bullied nerd Aldys, teacher Mrs. Knox and Sam's NYC girlfriend. Self gets to show off her strong vocal pipes in a coda to Oasis' "Wonderwall."
Erron Crawford makes his first big entrance in Simple Minds' "Don't You Forget About Me." He smoothly croons to his banana in "Pam Kitterman Talks About Sex," and later, with a big afro and his big vocals shines in Montell Jordan's "This Is How We Do It."
Nathan Moore dominates as the real grown-up in this group, Sam the literature teacher that Josie takes a liking to. During a lesson on Shakespeare's AS YOU LIKE IT, Moore and McKissack harmonize in Bon Jovi's "It's My Life." The two beautifully duet in "Wonderwall" by Oasis, their real-life chemistry really showing through. And a deserved mention for Moore's unexpected twerking prowess during "Pam Kitterman Talks About Sex" (Also very fun to watch - the mean girl clique's hot twerking!)
A welcomed constant in a musical parody at Rockwell; musical director Gregory Nabours again provides solid musical support and arrangements, with Liam Kevany on guitar, Blake Estrada on bass and Brian Cannady on drums, and Nabours himself on piano.)
Do not miss NEVER BEEN KISSED.