Theater Review: "Lysistrata Jones" On Broadway
The answer is yes, if that show is "Lysistrata Jones," now playing at the Walter Kerr Theatre on Broadway. This delightfully ebullient and charming show hits all the right notes when it comes to contemporary musical theater.
"Lysistrata Jones" follows the plight of the cheerleaders from Athens University (whose mascot is the Spartan - a resident of a rival city-state, as one character points out) in their quest to encourage the perennially-vanquished basketball team to actually win a game. The men are lackluster about the matter until Jones, the de facto head cheerleader, decides that she and her fellow women won't "give it up" until their boyfriends on the basketball team win a game.
The show can obviously attribute some of its success to its predecessor and namesake, the play "Lysistrata," which was written by the Greek playwright Aristophanes almost 2,500 years ago. But with a dash of music, a substitution of basketball for the Peleponnesean War, and a few shakes of pop culture references, the ancient play comes to life quite vividly today.
While a couple of the jokes are missed or fall flat, the most remarkable thing about "Lysistrata Jones" is that, much like the basketball team at the beginning of the show, the musical never feels like it's trying too hard (a lesson its cheerleading companion "Bring It On: The Musical" could stand to learn). There were a few flubs here and there, and a combination of sloppy diction and occasionally muddy sound design made some parts indiscernible, but the show is so buoyant that it simply cannot be dragged down.
Patti Murin is adorably consternated as the title character, while Jason Tam all but steals the show as the reclusive blogger Xander. Liz Mikel is also quite entertaining as the one woman Greek chorus, Heteira, and Lindsay Nicole Chambers is endearing as Robin, the resident beat poet and the cheerleaders' adviser on all things Aristophanes. While the vocal quality of some of the performers occasionally leaves something to be desired, the show perseveres and remains a jolly good time.
The choreography is fantastic, and is executed well by the cast. It stands to reason that the dance elements of the show would be exemplary, as the director/choreographer is Dan Knechtges, who also worked on "Xanadu" and "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee," among other shows. The cast doesn't miss a beat, even when contending with basketballs (which are a bit jarringly reminiscent of the "High School Musical" franchise).
The book, by Douglas Carter Beane ("Sister Act," "Xanadu"), keeps the show moving at a good clip and throws out a wide variety of jokes. The music and lyrics, by Lewis Flinn, are inherently pleasant. The set, by Allen Moyer, is simple but effective, and the inclusion of the band onstage is a nice touch that contributes to peripheral presence of a fourth wall in the show.
In the end, "Lysistrata Jones" is a lovely show that deserves to be seen. While it may not have any big names in the cast or creative team, or any movie star producers, the show is quite good and a lot of fun.
For 2012 Tony Awards coverage, click here.
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