Chicago Theatre Review
Strangest Things! The Musical – Greenhouse Theatre
For the subject of a musical parody one would think that Stranger Things, the sci-fi thriller/80’s love letter would be full to bursting with material. Nancy and Jonathan and Stevens’s weird monster-hunting love triangle, a boy in love with a girl in love with a waffle brand, a kid snatching government agency way in over their heads, communication through Christmas lights; the jokes should write themselves. But the creators of Strangest Things have either ignored or fumbled all the prime opportunities and left the rest to rot.
If you aren’t familiar with the Netflix program then there’s little in the plot that will make sense to you. If you are familiar there’s not much that will be useful as everything is either rehashed or takes off on tangents out of the Upside Down, involving the semantics over good news v bad news, orange chicken buffets, and carnal appetites, that make little sense here or anywhere. The authors have done a splendid job of reducing 8 hours to 85 minutes, but with limp lyrics songs grafted to late 20th century pop, and sad gags that loop upon themselves, nor the fact that you can barely hear half the dialog due to mumbling, 85 minutes has never felt so long.
The show’s not without some dim charms that emerge from it’s quaint Christmas lighted and smoke throttled stage. It’s nice to see more of Barb (Christian Siebert) the level-headed but doomed single girl, played with tragic aplomb. Molly LeCaptain shows off an excellent voice and wild eyed drive as “Juice” Byers (formally Joyce Byers, name changed for reasons we neither know nor care to know) as well as Alexandra Alontaga as the cute-psychic-powered-killer-child Eleven. Alontaga smooth singing voice and commitment to confusion anchor her scene (as well as a nice bit of waffle savagery) and we wish there was more for her to do than sit around and be shouted over.
It’s a shame to see such a deep vein of potential jokes be only scratched out. Instead of a send up or satire we get what amounts to a recap plastered over with some forgettable tunes and jokes that would fall down if they didn’t have the show to cling to. If you like to see Barb speak her mind or Dustin (Colleen DeRosa) hold-forth on carnal affairs, there maybe something for you. Otherwise the audience is advised to save their money and their time and look for better gags and spookier stuff.
by Ben Kemper
Greenhouse Theater 2257 Lincoln Ave (near Fullerton CTA)
Friday and Saturday 8pm and 10pm.
Tickets $20, $5 for students and industry.
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