JERSEY SHOREsical: A Frickin’ Rock Opera

Imagine if the cast of MTV’s Jersey Shore decided to put on a musical about their lives. Then imagine that the cast of Jersey Shore actually had enough talent to put on a musical about their lives. What you’d end up with would likely be something a great deal like JERSEY SHOREsical: A Frickin’ Rock Opera, now playing at the Hayworth Theater following its Best Ensemble Award-winning run at the New York Fringe Festival.

 Make no mistake, JERSEY SHOREsical: A Frickin’ Rock Opera is black box theater at its most bare-boned. Though the ensemble sport character-appropriate costumes, there’s neither scenic nor sound design per se, the cast perform unmiked to a single electronic keyboard, lighting is lights-up, lights-down, lights-back-up again, and the whole shebang runs less than an hour.

Despite all this, I enjoyed every trashy minute of JERSEY SHOREsical: A Frickin’ Rock Opera, and that’s without ever having seen a single one of Jersey Shore’s 58 aired episodes and being so scarcely even aware of the reality show’s existence that I had to visit Wikipedia simply to find out what the series is about.

Here’s what I learned in a nutshell. For the past four seasons, MTV has been following the lives of an octet of “guidos” and “guidettes” rooming together for a summer on the Jersey Shore (though apparently the gang spent Season 2 in Miami and season 4 in Italy). In a reality show tradition that goes back twenty years to MTV’s The Real World, the men and women of Jersey Shores live, love, lie, cheat, fight, and fuck, all but the latter in full view of cameras transmitting their every transgression to America and the world at large.

Co-creators Daniel Franzese and Hanna LoPatin have taken highlights of Jersey Shore’s first three seasons and written a musical revue that brings the entire gang to life in a dozen or so songs, with a minimum of spoken dialog.

 Under Drew Droege’s snappy direction, an oh-so talented cast sing a lot and dance a bit to a bunch of tuneful Franzese-LoPatin ditties like “Bitch In A Bed,” “DTF” (i.e “Down to Fuck”), “Gorilla Juicehead,” “Grenade,” “Grow Some Balls,” and a medley of “I Fucking Hate You” and “I Fucking Love You,” along with lyrics that rhyme things like “herpes” and “beef jerky.” Stephen Sondheim (or even Stephen Schwartz) they’re not, but if you wanted Sondheim or Schwartz, you’d be in a different theater and not laughing your tush off at JERSEY SHOREsical: A Frickin’ Rock Opera.

Anyone comparing photos of the actual Jersey Shore Eight and the triple-threats I witnessed onstage at the Hayworth will probably be as surprised and impressed as I was at just how close the cast of JERSEY SHOREsical come to replicating the real deal.

 The frickin’ amazing duo of Franzese and LoPatin* are Jersey Shore’s on-again, off-again lovers Ronnie and Sammi, the former sporting comically exaggerated muscle padding to replicate the humongous guns the real-life “juicehead” seems to be in the habit of flexing for the camera. It’s Ronnie and Sammi who get that schizophrenic medley of “I Fucking Hate You” and “I Fucking Love You,” proving that whether it’s Shakespeare or MTV, the course of true love never did/does run smooth.

Daisy Eagan, the youngest actress ever to win a Tony, proves she’s Mary Lennox no more as she transforms herself into the petite vixen known best as Snooki, a nickname the real thing apparently earned for being the first of her friends to make it to first base.

 Then there’s the King Of Abs better known as The Situation, brought to terrific musical life by Scenie winner Matt McConkey in spray-on tan and painted-on abs which, like the real Sitch, he will gladly (and frequently) raise his T-shirt to display.

Jersey Shore’s JWoww is apparently renowned for her surgically augmented bustline, so who better to play her than a cross-dressing Willam Belli*, the next best thing to female if you don’t mind something tucked away inside a pair of skin-tight short shorts.

 Mike Ciriaco is cute and sexy as can be as good guy Vinnie, Jordan Katcher is a hard-haired hoot as DJ Pauly D, and when Angelina (aka the “Kim Kardashian of Staten Island”) gets booted from the house, the fabulous Rebekka Johnson does a quick wig switch from brunette to blonde to return as her Season 3 replacement Deena.

Serving as Greek (or in this case Italian-American) Chorus for all of the above are the trio of hot and talented chicks better known as Random Sluts Jessica Buttafuoco*, Lynette Li, Emily Mara.

Finally, director/special guest star Droege* pops up hilariously as the evening’s Grenade, aka “a particularly unattractive female who must distracted by the wingman so that his fellow guido can successfully creep on her hot friend.”

 Among JERSEY SHOREsical: A Frickin’ Rock Opera’s funniest moments include The Situation’s love song to himself, complete with backup dancers wearing Matt McConkey masks; Snooki’s longing plea for a “Gorilla Juicehead,” sung holding a pickle in one hand and a jar of pickles in the other; and the recurring title song with its catchy refrain.

Samantha Scharff is producer and Zack Bass co-director.

No, you don’t have to be a Jersey Shore fan to enjoy JERSEY SHOREsical: A Frickin’ Rock Opera, and while I can’t rave about the production in terms as glowing as I’d use for say Jersey Boys, I can say this: JERSEY SHOREsical: A Frickin’ Rock Opera guarantees one Frickin’ Good Time.

*at the performance reviewed

The Hayworth Theatre, 2509 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles.

–Steven Stanley
April 12, 2012
Photos with white background by Debbi Rotkowitz

Comments are closed.