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A CurtainUp Review
This hybrid musical is a cross-fertilization of science fiction with the horror genre—plus a dash of Gothic coloring. Wild and wacky, nightmarish and romantic, it begs all description—but hits the bull's eye of musical theater.
Just in case you need reminding, Bedbugs are the tiny critters who swarmed into New York City in the late 80s to early 90s and frightened the heck out of city dwellers in the five boroughs and beyond. These Lilliputian insects have the power to upstage and unsettle whenever they are found lurking in their homes, workplaces, or public spaces like subway benches or a theater seat. And New Yorkers know either from hear say or first-hand experience that the varmints can appear, and disappear, in a nanosecond but leave a burning (many New Yorkers have purportedly burned their sheets to rid them of Bedbugs!) memory in their wake.
The current cast members all come equipped with powerful musical chops and acting know-how. It's hard to single out any one performer. However, you will be impressed by Grace McLean's Carly, the Exterminator/Bug Lady who suffers from mega-guilt following her mother's death from a bed bug attack. Carly was oblivious to this, watching a TV spot with her favorite pop star Dionne Salon (wink to you-know-who), which is played by the cross-dressed Brian Charles Rooney here. Another performer to watch is Chris Hall, who plays the mutant giant Bed Bug named Cimex.
Yes, this is all way over-the-top but it works largely because of Fred Sauter's excellent book and lyrics as well as Paul Leschen's catchy music (16 hard-rockin' songs). The brainchild of both artists, this show is original as it gets.
Arguably, this is is as timely as it gets, since the pests still are among us (sigh!), each joke lands with bristling energy. New lines have been inserted and scenes retooled to appropriate topical events like the sighting of Bedbugs on the N train last summer. Though far fetched via its science fiction elements, the show definitely taps into New York reality.
Robert Bartley wears two hats here, as director and choreographer, and does both with brio. The one missing element is psychological depth, but then the nature of a spoof is more about entertainment and fun than plumbing the psyche. .
Bedbugs is two hours of fun that nails a ticklish topic to perfection.