Tuesday, October 11, 2016

"Teenage Misery" by Revisionary Theatre Collective at Sandbox Theatre

There's another new theater company in town. They're called Revisionary Theatre Collective, and they're making their debut with a remount of the 2013 Minnesota Fringe musical Teenage Misery. It was one of my favorite Fringe shows that year, about which I wrote:
What do you get if you combine the Stephen King novels Misery and Carrie with the musicals Sweeney Todd and Bye Bye Birdie? You get this odd and delightful mishmash of a musical, that doesn't shy away from the material it borrows from (the opening song is "attend the tale of Carrie Black," and Conrad Birdie is replaced by Shane West). A little rough around the edges, but the songs are great, with clever commentary on what it's like to be a young person growing up today, and winking jokes about "no time for proper character introduction, we only have an hour."
The rough edges have been smoothed and additional material added (it's now about an hour and forty minutes without intermission), but it's still got that fun, clever, Fringey spirit, pop culture and musical theater references, and great poppy songs. Keith Hovis is a talented young composer/pianist/music director (see also his other fun Fringey musical Shakespeare Apocalypse and the gorgeous Pioneer Suite), and I look forward seeing out what he and the other Revisionists have up their sleeves.

Kelly Matthews, Jake Rahier, and
Karissa Lade
Carrie Black (Kelly Matthews, the only returning cast member) and her friends Whitney (Karissa Lade) and Harvey (Jake Rahier) love the pop star Shane West (Ryan London Levin, the perfect personification of a vacuous celebrity), and like to hang out in her dorm room and dream about him. One day their dreams come true; Whitney wins a contest to join him onstage at his last concert before he goes to Africa to help the starving children (a la Bye Bye Birdie). Carrie is insanely jealous, and makes her own plans to meet Shane, plans that involve chloroform. She enlists her reluctant friends to help her hold him hostage in her dorm room. Meanwhile, another super fan Hannah (Whitney Rhodes) senses that he's in trouble and convinces her boyfriend (Adam Rice) that they need to save him. But this is Carrie, so things don't work out smoothly, and she leads her friends on a killing spree across the country to get what she wants.

Whitney Rhodes and Ryan London Levin
Teenage Misery is performed in Sandbox Theatre's cute little studio space in south Minneapolis. An empty room with space for just 30 to 40 audience members seated on two sides of the performance area, this is about as intimate as theater gets. It's great fun to be so close to the actor/singers, and there are some fantastic voices in that room (especially Kelly and Whitney) that easily fill the space with no amplification needed. The songs are really great; fun and catchy with clever lyrics. And the cast brings the songs and story to life with great energy. They're obviously having fun, which means the audience is too.

Teenage Misery runs for just one more weekend. I highly recommend it if you like dark comedy, pop culture, new musicals, and up-close-and-personal theater experiences. The production is refreshingly raw and low-tech, no bells or whistles to distract from the material and the performances, which really shine in this space. This is a talented young group of theater artists and I look forward to seeing what else they can do.