BWW Review: The Fist Pumping Phenomenon of POP PUNK HIGH at (le) poisson rouge
You have officially entered pop-punk paradise: a place where the people eat, sleep and breathe the essence of punk culture, channeling their thickly eyelined, rebellious year 2003-selves to walk in the famed footsteps of Avril Lavigne. It is a place where teenage angst and insecurity lend themselves to the formation of the baddest, "punkest" star whom the entire student body respects. This paradise is actually a high school, where the opportunity to rock out like Green Day is met with the need to face and understand the person you find yourself to be. The ups and downs of self-discovery are set to a wicked pop-punk sound in this bizarre and brave musical that is Pop Punk High, now in performances at the West Village's iconic (le) poisson rouge.
With a book by Anderson Cook, music and lyrics by Ben Lapidus and directed by Felicia Lobo, Pop Punk High began as an extend showcase production and now makes its way off-Broadway. With a cast and score that can only be described as purely electrifying, this musical runs along the lines of a punk concert, with a dramatic flare of nostalgia for a time many of us hold dear: high school in the early 2000's. The days of skateboarding, boy bands and attempts to win a girl with both bravado and the spirit of Avril Lavigne from a can of Axe body spray, come back in full swing as though we never truly moved forward from 2003. We have the stereotypical high school scene: the lanky kid with low self-esteem who wishes to surpass the tough guy and claim his hot girlfriend with the fiery orange hair for his own. Add some soul spurring pop-punk, some spirit-swindling and a plot that is too dramatic not to be exclaimed on stage, Pop Punk High is anything but ordinary as a concert is transformed into a riveting, head-bopping musical with a twisted, definitely unique plot.
Before the show even begins, the audience takes the part of people ready for a night out in the heart of the West Village. As you receive your wristband and head downstairs, you are met with the sounds of QWAM, the show's opening act. As people stand around with drinks in hand, it is left in their capable hands to get the crowd revved up before the show begins, and set the mood for some hard core pop-punking; this they do very well. As they finish their set and the excitement builds, three musicians take the stage and the audience stands closer together to welcome the start of the show.
Pop Punk High soon quells the crowd by introducing Derek, a wannabe punk superstar with caring, overbearing parents whom he can't stand (in the style of a true teenager). With his best friend Tib, who is in the running for valedictorian, he desperately wants to win the heart Amanda Bunkface, the popular girl who doesn't even know he exists. While serving detention, Derek finds a can of Axe body spray in the principal's office and discovers that it holds the vengeful spirit of Avril Lavigne, who is trapped in the can and offers Derek three wishes to help her escape. With this newfound accomplice, Derek starts a chain reaction of people who change for the better - in a way that rising to the highest level of "punk-good" could never have brought about.
What a wonderful idea to combine the energy and raw quality of a concert with a plot that almost demands the hard-core score that accompanies it. Pop Punk High is the perfect mixture of that nostalgia which makes the audience appreciate the simplicity of "boy wants girl," and the unexpected that makes this show live in the ether of punk god-hood (such as gargantuan penises and foul-mouthed parents). It is a pop-punk concert with feeling, an electrifying experience that, with (le) poisson rouge as its set, gives new form to the term "musical theater." I love the idea of this "set" theatrical world combined with the rash, impetuousness of teenage angst in concert form; there is so much to be grateful for with this show.
Not only are the songs brazen and catchy and the cast immensely talented, the audience is given such a clear picture of what this world of "pop punk high" is truly like...and how dysfunctional are the people who live there. It reminds all of us that, no matter how fun high school was and how many of us wish we could return, it's a hard time - hence the appropriateness of the pop-punk genre. Although, it's also a reminder that, amongst teenage angst and confusion, there is always something about the experience that is so worth telling and comical at the same time - hence, Pop Punk High was born.
This incredibly talented cast includes Amanda Centeno, Brenna Donahue, Sarah Anne Fernandez, Jacob Grover, Jess Kaliban, Kelly Krauter, Ben Lapidus, McLean Peterson, Zac Porter, Timiki Salinas, Patrick Sweeney, Leanne Velednitsky, Mina Walker and Eric Wiegand. Produced by Anderson Cook and Not the Normal Productions, the production team includes Hannah Levesque (set), Andrew Hunt (lighting), Olivia Hern (costumes), Stephanie Wurster (Assistant Director) and Jaye Hunt (Stage Manager).
Pop Punk High began performances at (le) poisson rouge (located at 158 Bleeker Street) on September 20th, and will run through November 1st. Tickets range from $35-$60 and can be purchased either at the box or by visiting www.lpr.com. It is a concert-style production, so all tickets are standing; a limited number of seats are available on a first-come, first-serve basis. The remaining performances are October 20th at 5:30 pm, October 24th at 7:30 pm and November 1st at 7:30 pm. In addition to an opening act, there will be a costume contest and live band karaoke following each show, so please be sure to take part in the entire experience.
Enjoy the show!
Photo Credit: Olivia Hern