When the Jefferson Performing Arts Society elected to put “Scream Queens: The Musical” on its season, there was some question as to what good could come out of this unknown entity, a show with book, music and lyrics by an even more unknown Scott Martin out of Los Angeles.
Expectations may have been low, but the stellar cast of six women who play the various parts of the B-movie actresses at the Glamigore Screamicom all turned out to be so good that any doubts as to what Dennis Assaf or his staff were thinking when deciding to mount this production were dashed. Like small productions similar to “Nunsense,” this show has all the markings of a musical that will continue to be mounted through the coming years, although it is clearly demanding of good actresses with very good vocal skills.
Leading the cast is director and choreographer J. J. Rodgers, who first became a part of the work while living and working in Los Angeles 13 years ago. She assembled a cast of five others – Kate Abbreo (Alexis), Kate Fleming (Bianca), Heather Leonard (Dee Dee), Cathie Choppin (Nadine) and Lindsey Noelle Brown (Tonya) – to play opposite her character of Richelle.
The fact is the songs are clever and while the concept, like “Nunsense,” is silly, the talent on stage makes for an enjoyable evening or afternoon of fun along with audience participation.
Supposedly Martin based the musical on the lives of real Hollywood B-movie horror actresses he knew, who did in fact show up at horror film conventions in the hopes of bolstering their flagging careers. Rodgers considers herself a scream queen, having gone through much of what the characters describe on stage, and Assaf’s choice to have her lead the JPAS production was pivotal in its successful mounting.
The singing and dancing is top notch and while some of the production values are low key, the enthusiasm of the cast and the talent on stage is apparent and make up for any deficiencies.
Music director Jonne Dendinger might be considered the seventh character on stage. Her excellent direction of her three- piece ensemble, brilliant accompaniment and musical stings add immeasurably to the vocal abilities of the stars. While the choreography does suffer from the constraints of a very small stage, the cast of six seemed not to mind that in the least.
Among the more memorable songs are a tribute to “Fay Wray,” an admonishment that “Everybody Starts at the Bottom” a tribute to “Special FX” and a homage to horror film king “Roger Corman.”
“Scream Queens: The Musical” plays at Teatro Wego! Theatre, 177 Sala Avenue in Westwego, from now until October 17. For more information call 504-885-2000 or purchase tickets at the JPAS website here.