BWW Review: UMPO MEAN GURLZ - Perfectly Wicked Entertainment!
UMPO's continues its winning recipe for a raucous evening of laughs and musicality with its latest production THE UNAUTHORIZED MUSICAL PARODY OF MEAN GURLZ. Take one part cult film favorite. Separate out the funny situations accenting them with witty, new lines. Add hit pop songs, repurposed to advance the original film plotline. And top it all off with a very talented, triple-threat cast. And what you have is a very tasty WOW!
Director Tye Blue expertly directs his cast of nine at a neck-breaking pace with just enough time for audience laughter and applause - which there are a lot of. All performers work together seamlessly taking turns in the spotlight and then serving as chorus and support for the featured soloist.
Fanboy/Narrator essayed so enthusiastically by Ryan O'Connor sets up the story of this parody. Besides taking on assorted roles, O'Connor gets his chance to vocally shine in Brittney's "Lucky."
New girl in town Cady (Nicci Claspell) arriving to her new high school becomes befriended by outsiders Janis Ian (E.K. Dagenfield) and Damian (Andy Arena). These two non-conformists recruit Cady to bring down the popular girl clique, The Plastics, headed by Regina (Corbin Reid), with Karen (Janelle Lillian) and Gretchen (Natalie Lander).
Claspell's soaring vocals mesmerize in the opening, Toto's "Africa," and later, strike a well-intended defiant chord in Kelly Clarkson's "Stronger." In Maroon 5's "Sunday Morning," her duet with Michael Thomas Grant as Aaron, the boy of her dreams, shows off both of their vocal and dance proficiencies. Grant exhibits his great rubbery moves and a beautiful, Prince-like falsetto.
Reid grabs centerstage each time she's on (as head Mean Gurl Regina should). A combination of Tina Turner and Beyoncé with a more than a few dashes of sass, Reid Com. Mands. in Meredith Brooks' "Bitch," and Kills. It. in Adele's "Rolling in the Deep." Backed by her Plastic Girls; Reid, Lillian and Lander tear up the stage in Beyoncé's "Run the World."
Lillian's Karen's psychic "ESP-N" powers involve the feelings in her breasts which she emphasizes in her terrific rendition of Ace of Bass' "The Sign."
Lander's a comic genius with her bumping and grinding to "Jingle Bell Rock" and then segueing to a Jewish classic. Lander's vocal pipes hit the Rockwell rafters in No Doubt's "Just a Girl."
Katherine Tokarz makes her strong, unique comedic stamp on all her essential supporting roles. Tokarz shows off her comic vocals in Whitney's "The Greatest Love of All." Tokarz also splendidly choreographed the entire show including the sizzling bumps and grinds in Beyoncé's "Naughty Girl" and Maroon 5's "Sunday Morning."
Dagenfield as non-conformist Janis Ian makes his mark in his many aside quips. Arena gets to sing badly as Damian in the talent show. Luckily Narrator steps in to 're-write' the plot and have Damian be a great singer, instead of a bad one. Arena's lovely interpretation of Christina's "Beautiful" will bring tears.
The hard-driving, dead-on UMPO band (led by musical director Gregory Nabours on piano; with Blake Estrada on bass, Emily Rosenfield on guitar and Gregory Sadler on drums) rocked as always, providing the driving instrumental backbone to the UMPO MEAN GURLZ soundtrack which also includes: Brittney's "Oops, I Did It Again," Blondie's "One Way or Another," Gaga's "Telephone," and Spice Girls' "Wannabe."
Do see UMPO MEAN GURLZ - if you can still get tickets.