This afternoon I saw a rock/hip-hop musical comedy based on the classical Greek play Lysistrata (the one where the women go on a sex strike until their men give up war). It's called Lysistrata Jones and transplants the story to a college campus -- sort of now and sort of 411 BC -- and swaps war for a basketball losing streak.
You can see how I might be wary of this one...
But it's an absolute blast! With a wacky, fast-paced book by playwright Douglas Carter Beane (author of the brilliant As Bees in Honey Drown and The Little Dog Laughed), a pulse-pounding, hyper-high-energy hip-hop score by Lewis Flinn, and wacky fun-filled direction and thrilling hip-hop choreography both by Dan Knechtges. There are only a few musicals that deliver this much fun. (Bat Boy comes to mind.) Bucking my least favorite trend on and off Broadway, this is not a production that thinks bad acting is funny. These actors are 100% serious within this wacky world and the stakes are sky high, and that's what makes the whole crazy enterprise so utterly hilarious.
They have lots of fun with the double time period, existing both in classical Athens and also in the world of today, with smart phones and Joel Schumacher Batmam movies. But they never make the mistake of self-reference for its own sake. Everything here contributes to the wild fun of the world this awesome cast of 12 creates on stage.
I'd be lying if I said the considerable amount of bare chests and other beefcake didn't add to my enjoyment, but this is a really terrific, neo-musical comedy, using the energy and devices of George M. Cohan but in a relevant, modern way.
Its high spirits and silly seriousness reminds me a lot of awesome shows like Bat Boy, Urinetown, Forbidden Planet, and several other of my favorites. And though it's not long on substance, it is very smart and very literate, and it's the perfect musical comedy for this ironic age of The Daily Show and The Colbert Report.
It's hard not to have a total blast when everyone onstage is having that much fun. What a joyful, wild, well-crafted piece of musical theatre! Bravo!
Long Live the Musical!
P.S. See also my thoughts on Follies, Bonnie & Clyde, The Blue Flower, and Rent.