Thursday, December 15, 2011

Lysistrata Jones: Is Fun Enough For Broadway?

Expectations can make all the difference in how you experience a show. I was expecting Bonnie and Clyde to be a disaster and I ended up liking it. I was all set for Lysistrata Jones to be my new favorite musical, and while I enjoyed myself, I left feeling disappointed. After a successful Transport Group run at the Gym at Judson this summer, Lysistrata Jones, which opened last night at the Walter Kerr Theatre, is now the lowest grossing show on Broadway. I am still rooting for it because I'd like to think that new musicals with no stars can succeed on Broadway, but as much as I want to tell you that I loved it, the best I can say is that it's a really fun show that could have used just a little more work.

If you took a sexed up High School Musical and combined it with Aristophanes' Lysistrata, you'd end up with Lysistrata Jones. Lyssie J (the always adorable Patti Murin) is a recent transfer student to Athens University. Her boyfriend Mick (Josh Segarra) is the team captain of the school basketball team, which hasn't won a game in 30 years. Lyssie forms a cheerleading squad with the other girlfriends of the basketball players, but when that fails to inspire them, feminist Robin (Lindsay Nicole Chambers) introduces her to Lysistrata (via Spark Notes). Lyssie convinces the other girls not to "give it up" until they win a game.

For all of the hilarity and originality of Douglas Carter Beane's book (and there is a lot of it), there are also some cheap laughs in the form of stereotypical characters that have been seen in countless teen movies. And while there is some great raunchy humor, the material is surprisingly safe. Lewis Flinn's score is appropriately poppy. Director Dan Knechtges's basketball choreography is a highlight of the show as is an absolutely charming dance performed by Jason Tam as nerdy activist Xander. Tam brought audiences to tears as Paul in A Chorus Line and here gets a chance to show that he is a gifted physical comedian as well. The young cast is talented and energetic and seem to be having a ball, but there are only 12 of them, leaving the stage feeling a bit empty.

As much as I like to think that there's room for everything on Broadway, some shows are better suited to smaller spaces. Lysistrata Jones could have probably done well in an off-Broadway commercial run. Is it too late for a transfer to New World Stages?

Photo credit: Joan Marcus

1 comment:

Mel (Two Show Days) said...

I have so many questions about this show, but I think I'd hate it, so I don't want to waste my time and money and emotional well-being on it.

I just don't think I can get past the basic feminist issues. Do the women not have their own sexual desires? Are all the characters in hetero relationships? Why do the women care whether the men's basketball team wins any games? If it's about school pride, why don't they just form a women's team and win games on their own? The concept of a modern woman's power resting on providing or withholding sex is just so repulsive as the basis for a musical to me. And to use whatever power she has on such a frivolous matter. UGH.