The wild-and-wacky (and wildly talented) folks who brought you Are You There, God? It’s Me, Karen Carpenter (in the Summer of 2012) and Prairie-oke! (in the Summer of ’13) are back with their latest summer spoof (and who cares that it’s still spring?), the aptly-named “new musical mash-up parody slasher musical” I Totally Know What You Did Last (Donna) Summer, and if its current Cavern Club Celebrity Theatre run is, like, totally sold-out, the good news is that it’s coming back in the Fall!
The latest from master parodist Dane Whitlock (sharing writing credit this time round with cast member Amy Procacci), this self-described “‘80s spoof of ‘90s-genre slasher movies with a ‘70s soundtrack” takes as its inspiration such classic teen horror flicks as Halloween, Friday The 13th, and Scream, then seasons the mix with close to a dozen smash hits by the late, great Queen Of Disco herself, from “Hot Stuff” to “She Works Hard For The Money” to “Bad Girls” to “MacArthur Park” to “No More Tears (Enough Is Enough) ” to “On The Radio” to “Dim All The Lights” to “Heaven Knows” to “Last Dance” to “I Will Survive. ” (What? Donna Summer didn’t sing that last one? You could have fooled me!)
As befits any ‘80s slasher spoof, I Totally Know What You Did Last (Donna) Summer starts off on a hot (Donna) summer evening with its quintet of teen protagonists out drinking beers, telling ghost stories, and generally “looking for some hot stuff, baby, this evening.”
There’s beautiful Homecoming Queen Sissy Boudreaux (Libby Baker), her hot, handsome, hunky (but brain-cell-deprived) boyfriend Ray Jay (Ben Palacios), Sissy’s bookish best friend Rosemary (Frances Chewning), class clown Tweak (Matthew Herrmann), and the oxymoronically-named Tiny (Procacci), whose motto must be “Be Prepared” cause she’s always got her bra packed with Fruit Roll-Ups and Capri Sun.
Also featured along the way are Sissy’s precocious kid sister Samantha Jean Marlotte Boudreaux, aka Sam (Sydney Blair), Salem’s Parrish Sheriff Haskins (Mark Rowe), and local Shell station mechanic Ernie (Erik Scott Romney).
Last but most definitely not least is star reporter Windy Storms of KSUX Live News Channel 6 (Drew Droege in drag), who gets things going with a news flash that soon has the town in a tizzy: “Madman and murderer Bodean Latrell has reportedly escaped from the Salem’s Parrish Mental Facility. He is considered to be armed and dangerous. And very, very crazy.” (What drives Windy crazy is that no one can seem to get her last name right.)
Meanwhile, our teen quintet are out for yet another boozed-up Saturday night drive with Ray Jay at the wheel when their car hits a deer. Sorry, make that a dear wearing a raincoat, in other words not a deer at all. Naturally, they dump the “deer” in the river. (Wouldn’t you?)
A year soon passes, and with no trace of Bodean Latrell since the night of the crazed killer’s escape, the case is officially closed, the city-wide 9 p.m. curfew gets lifted, and Sissy, Rosemary, and Tiny all receive unsigned letters declaring, “I’m still alive, bitch.” Oh, and Rosemary’s baby (conceived on that terrifying night) is about to pop.
Let the body count begin.
Whitlock and Procacci’s script is sprinkled with 80s catch phrases (“There aren’t enough spoons in the world to gag me with”) and TV references (Cagney And Lacey and Charles In Charge, to name two). Even Adele Dazeem gets a mention. (All right, so Adele didn’t get born until March 2, 2014, but who’s complaining?)
In addition to Donna Summer song-after-song (sung live, not lip-synced), some of Miss Summer’s now iconic lyrics turn up as dialog. (Sissy: “It’s raining!” Tweak: “It’s pouring!” Rosemary: “My love life is boring me to tears!” Ray Jay: “Enough is enough, you guys!”)
At a fast-paced hour and ten minutes, I Totally Know What You Did Last (Donna) Summer knows how not to overstay its welcome, and if it’s not Shakespeare (or as elaborately staged as a Troubies spoof), everything but an icky running gag about Windy’s smelly mike works to audience (and this reviewer’s) delight.
Whitlock company returnees Baker, Blair, Chewning, Herrmann, Procacci, and Rowe have clearly done their slasher/Donna Summer homework, once again turning in triple-threat-tastic tongue-in-cheek performances that snap, crackle, and pop, and the same can be said for company newbie Romney.
As for the pectastic Palacios, you’d never guess that last night was his first time in the show. (In fact, the only nit I have to pick is that Ray Jay doesn’t get shirtless sooner and stay that way!)
As for inimitable gay icon Droege, his fabulously over-the-top Windy joins previous Whitlock-Droege drag creations like evil bitch Mellie Moleson and It’s Me, Margaret’s Mom to (occasionally shocked) audience delight.
Whitlock’s spoof-o-licious direction is complemented by Joseph Corella’s fabuloso disco-era-inspired choreography, with Blair as dance captain.
There is no set, per se, just some terrific ‘80s slasher movie posters that deserve a second look because they’re not quite what you first think you’re seeing. JT Seaton provides the production’s sound and lighting.
Megan Evanich is stage manager. I Totally Know What You Did Last (Donna) Summer is produced by Joseph Chianese and Vickie Mendoza. Artwork is by Christie Scanlan and Rowe.
To those lucky enough to hold tickets to I Totally Know What You Did Last (Donna) Summer’s remaining sold-out performances, I recommend skipping dinner at the upstairs Casita Del Campo restaurant. Service is slow and mostly inattentive, menu items overpriced, and though the soup or salad is promised with dinner, none was offered or served.
As for those who’ve missed the ticket-reservation boat this time round, the good news is that Sissy, Ray Jay, Rosemary, Tweak, Tiny, Windy Weathers (sorry, that’s Windy Storms), and the rest of the I Totally Know What You Did Last (Donna) Summer crew will be back downstairs at the Cavern Club Celebrity Theatre come October.
So book your return engagement seats as soon as they’re made available. It would be a crying shame to miss the boat twice!
Cavern Club Celebrity Theatre, 1920 Hyperion Ave., Los Angeles.
May 16, 2014
(Production stills feature Joe Donohoe as Ray Jay.)