Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Only Kids at Bayside

I feel like I've seen a decent array of parody musicals so far this year, with Newsadoosies and Triassic Parq both representing great (albeit very different) examples of what a musical based on a popular franchise can be. Ryan Bogner wrote recently on Crazytown about the phenomenon of __ The Musical!, but Newsadoosies proved that a completely wacky spoof could still make social commentary and Triassic Parq demonstrated that sidelined characters of a cult classic could have its own rich brand of storytelling.

The latest parody musical that I had the pleasure of seeing was Bayside! The UnMusical! (by Bob and Tobly McSmith) based on-- you guessed it, the wacky kids from Saved by the Bell. I grew up on Zack Morris (trust me, I even wrote a short story in grade school that involved running into Mark Paul Gosselaar, which I hope is lost somewhere and will not resurface at my wedding or be excerpted in my biography), so I was excited but nervous. What was there to say about the kids of Bayside so many years later?
There's obviously a lot of material to lampoon-- all of the cast members have gone a long way from their high school characters, the show itself was known for its outlandish schemes, all the plots were strangely squeaky clean, and there were dance sequences and after school special episodes that will live in infamy. Bayside! hits on many of the obvious jokes-- the Max is facing bankruptcy, Jessie is addicted to caffeine pills, Zack and Kelly broke up and Kelly is pregnant, Slater might be gay, and Lisa doesn't realize she's the only non-white character. Yet, in spite of all these plot points, the story of this wacky, raunchy show never really comes to a cohesive whole. Even with all this going on, most of the show consists of a Miss Bayside pageant that just allows the characters to do their insane thangs.

Which in many ways is fine. Most of the audience is there for the cheese and over-the-top characters, and the show does deliver this in spades. The actors' dedication to their characters is impressive, particularly April Kidwell, who channels Elizabeth Berkley at her most manic.

There are some parodies of songs in the show as well, with 4 Non Blondes getting a shoutout, as well as the Hot Sundae workout video song and a tune from Grease. The original music is simple, and pretty much the entire score is sung to the audience in an explanatory, self-aware Zack Morris narration way instead of amongst the characters. Probably one of the most memorable songs was one involving unicorns, in a bizarre but entrancing moment of glory for Screech. There's also a fantastic rap for Lisa that actress Shamira Clark kills.

If you've been missing the Bayside gang, this play will more than get your nostalgia going. They still have 7 performances, so check them out here, and visit the only kids at Bayside high.

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