Review: Otherworld Theatre’s Twihard! A Twilight Musical Parody Is a Comic Treat for Diehard Fans and Others
Review by Anthony Neri.
A zany and eclectic soundtrack by Tiffany Keane Schaefer and Brian Rasmussen meets a zany and eclectic cast in this hilarious generation-specific parody. The three background musicians (Brian Rasmussen, Mark Hardy, and Thomas A. Jasek) articulate every wacky turn of the actors, whose campiness is at times so frenetic, you can only marvel at how well connected the music and the movement are in this production. Fan-pleasing references are plentifully weaved into the soundtrack as are recognizable 2000s pop songs and even a brief nod to Grease, a kindred spirit in terms of high school melodrama. This world premiere musical parody is exuberant, unreserved and playful in its references. Book and lyrics are by Schaefer with music and music direction by Rasmussen.
I'm not well-acquainted with the Twilight series, but I think most viewers under a certain age have enough cultural familiarity with its tropes to enjoy this musical. Although I missed some of the insider jokes, the parody subjects were common and hilarious enough to keep me engaged the whole time.
The way Bella (Rachel Arianna) acts almost compulsively naïve and vulnerable, as if this were her character’s overwhelming trait, is only made funnier when Edward (Casey Huls) tells her later in the play that he is a dangerous bloodthirsty vampire she might want to avoid. Then, consummating the idiotic romantic plunge, Ara (Collin Borisenko), drenched in gothic garb, parodically sings “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” with Bella and Edward joining in a beautiful duet.
The acting all around is so compellingly funny, not least on the level of body language. Nicholas Ian, who plays an expressively queer version of the wan vamp-doctor Carlisle, moves in such a comically frenzied way it looks cartoonish and skeletal. Bella’s gruff lumberjack-looking dad Charlie (Cosmo Coniglio) joins the doctor in an intensely queer jive, in which he’s described as a “bear”; not long before this abrupt romantic turn he tells Bella he got her purple sheets because he heard somewhere that teenage girls like purple. He’s portrayed as a clueless man’s man, making his random sensual foray all the more ridiculous.
The play is full of such distinctive characters, another one being Jacob (Maxwell Peters), who wears a tank-top with a tacky wolf imprinted on it—a testament to Schaefer’s cleverly campy, pastiche costume design. We are reminded to death that he is only 14, a romantic deficit that keeps Bella from his grasp. His naivete is accentuated when he finds Bella’s shoulder to be quite a titillating exposure.
Peters also plays Mike, a high school friend, who, along with Jessica (Lena Simone) and others, sing the angsty and too-cool-for-school “New Girl” song, when Bella first enters high school. It’s a synchronized posturing by teenagers, who basically cry, “Aren’t I cool, new girl?” in so many stereotypical teen ways. This song was one of my personal highlights.
There are many other moments worth recalling, which kept my attention even though I’m not part of the fandom. For diehard fans, Twihard! A Twilight Musical Parody is a knockout comedy with dazzling, energetic performances and boisterous music.
Twihard! A Twilight Musical Parody is showing at Otherworld Theatre, 3914 N. Clark St., every Friday and Saturday at 7pm and Sunday at 2pm through Sunday, March 10. Tickets are available at www.otherworldtheatre.org.
Anthony Neri is a recent graduate of the University of Iowa. He enjoys writing, watching plays and reading novels and currently works for a travel agency.
For more information on this and other plays, see theatreinchicago.com.
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