Mean Gurlz rule from now through mid-April as Rockwell Table & Stage’s UMPO series returns with The Unauthorized Musical Parody Of Mean Gurlz, a tasty musical treat whether you’re a die-hard fan of a certain Lindsay Lohan movie smash or simply show up at Los Feliz’s trendiest cabaret for a dozen-and-a-half pop hits performed by some of SoCal’s most exciting young vocal stars.
Having received a “Don’t You Dare” letter from a certain Hollywood studio that shall remain unnamed, co-writers Kate Pazakis and Joseph Gonzalez have insured that any resemblance between Mean Gurlz and an alternately-spelled 2004 flick is purely coincidental by inviting “millennial homosexual” narrator Spencer (Ryan O’Connor) to bring along a bunch of his neighborhood buddies for his very own self-penned tribute (retitled “Mean Gurlz with a Z” and “polished up with some things Tina Fey could have done a little bit better.”)
That’s why, if Spencer is to be trusted, Cady/Lindsay gets played by his grandmother’s housekeeper Esperanza (Bianca Gisselle) and the high-school-ruling Plastics are portrayed by “Toluca Lake dance sensation Rhythm Junction” (Corbin Reid as Queen Bee Regina George alongside Natalie Lander and swing Janelle Lillian as acolytes Gretchen Wieners and Karen Smith), with others of Spencer’s entourage filling assorted featured roles.
Teen-movie buffs will recognize doubtlessly unintentional similarities between Gisselle’s Cady and Lindsay’s. Both spent twelve of their sixteen years in Africa, and both were home-schooled by hippy-dippy parents before being sent off to navigate a high school jungle populated by ROTC guys (“represented by CrossFit homosexuals”) varsity jocks (“represented by spin-class homosexuals”), “sexually active band geeks led by musical director Gregory Nabours,” and other assorted cliques.
Like Lindsay’s Cady, Gisselle’s finds herself befriended by lesbionic Janis Ian (E.K. Dagenfield in goth-girl drag) and teen power bottom Damien (Andy Arena), the pair of outsider oddballs enlisting the school newbie to “infiltrate, isolate, and destroy” The Plastics by reporting back on every horrific thing the terrible trio say and do.
Unfortunately for Janice and Damian, Cady soon finds herself both crossing over to the mean side and falling for Regina’s sexy exy Aaron (Michael Thomas Grant).
Co-writers Pazakis and Gonzalez slip in enough undoubtedly inadvertent Mean Girls references to delight its multitude of fans while adding topical jokes you don’t have to have seen the movie to appreciate. (Though both Donald and Ivanka get skewered, it’s poor Miss Lohan who gets ribbed the most, as when Regina’s mom refuses Cady/Lindsay Jello shots and the addiction-prone star replies, “But I’m not supposed to get my first DUI till 2007!”)
Mostly, Mean Gurlz offers Rockwell audiences the chance to enjoy girl-singer pop smashes galore, from Beyoncé’s “Run The World (Girls) and “Naughty Girls” to Britney’s “Lucky” and “Oops I Did It Again” to Christina’s “Beautiful” to Lady Gaga’s “Telephone” to Adele’s “Rolling In The Deep” to Kelly’s “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)” to Whitney’s “The Greatest Love Of All” to Spice Girls “Wannabe,” with a few originally-recorded-by-guys hits thrown in for macho measure.
In his fifth time out as UMPO director, Tye Blue has his Unauthorized Musical Parodies down pat, making such imaginative use of Rockwell’s club seating that no matter where you may find yourself, at some point or other you will be within spitting distance of the spit-worthy meanies better known as the Plastics or their fellow players, whether they’re emoting or vocalizing or moving-grooving to Katherine Tokarz’s Hi-NRG choreography.
Gisselle goes from frumpy home-school frizzy to feisty public-school fabulous, and like each and every one of her costars, has pipes to match the best you might hear on American Idol or The Voice.
The sensational Reid is the Regina George we might have seen had Zoe Saldana played Rachel McAdams’ part, and more power to UMPO for casting outside the box.
Lander’s herpes-plagued Gretchen and Lillian’s dumb-brunette Karen burn up the Rockwell stage as well, as does rock falsetto-blessed boy-next-door hottie Grant (who doubles his fun as heavy-flow Bethany Byrd).
Dagenfeld is as dragtastic as you’d want a statuesque gay girl goth to be and Arena gives any ab-fab high school gay boy a run for his pink designer purse.
Swing Tal Fox channels her inner Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, and Ana Gasteyer to bring math teacher Miss Norbury and Cady’s and Regina’s moms to hilarious musical life, while Narrator-&-Others O’Connor ties it all together with shade-throwing panache.
Musical director extraordinaire Nabours once again gets Rockwell Table-&-Stage a rocking with his red-hot band (Blake Estrada on bass, Nabours himself on piano, Emily Rosenfield on guitar, and Greg Sadler on drums).
Eric Larson scores high marks for his flashy lighting design, technical director David Evans for his crystal-clear sound design mix, and Chadd McMillan for his just-right costumes. Derek Jones operates the light board. Jagger Waters is production stage manager. Stephanie Lazard is production coordinator.
Jason Michael Snow alternates as Aaron. Ashley Argota, Nicci Claspell, Kalen Edean, and Kyra Selman are swings. O’Connor contributed additional material.
Having musically parodied such diverse movie hits as Hocus Pocus, The Big Lebowski, and Home Alone, producer Pazakis and her crackerjack UMPO team have got their act down to a science. The Unauthorized Musical Parody Of Mean Gurlz may have a certain studio’s knickers in a twist, but only a Regina George could find reason to bitch.
Rockwell Table & Stage, 1714 N. Vermont, Los Angeles. Through April 15. Thursays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 8:00. Sundays at 12:00 noon. Also Tuesday February 14 at 8:00. Reservations: 323 669-1550 ext. 20
February 3, 2017
Photos: Bryan Carpender