“Bedbugs!!!” — Pestilence Off-Broadway
By P.K. Greenfield
What’s the difference between Broadway and Off-Broadway?
Ticket sales. For those who don’t know the hierarchy of New York City theatre, it all depends on seating — it’s about profits — If there are over 500
hundred seats it’s considered Broadway, under 500 seats is Off-Broadway, under 250 seats is Off-Off Broadway. It has nothing to do with the inspiration, creativity, chorus girls, star quality, talent or even the avenue. It’s all about filling seats and greenbacks.
The formula worked for cats and lion cubs and now the same could be sung about bugs.“Bedbugs!!! it’s a musical” has infested the ArcLight Theatre just one block off Broadway and two subway stops north of Times Square. This metalhead musical is filled with camp, calamity and pesticide. Exterminator, Carly, creates a potion to destroy the city’s scourge after the unfortunate death of her mother — she got bitten in her bed and dies. The tragedy initiates a career for Carly but a menace for the human race: The blood hungry bedbugs become as infectious as The Beetles in a rock ‘n’ roll rumpus between insect and human.
The antidote thickens with a love story and a belter from up north named Dionne Salon, her French Canadian partner (slash) manager along with stereotype city dwellers and a bombastic TV news reporter who battle the bugs to the end.
Grace McLean (Carly) and the king of insects, Chris Hall (Cimex), give commendable performances with voices reticent of Joan Jett and Freddie Mercury in the thralls of massive reproduction.The supporting cast is equally worth the itch and scratch: Danny Bolero, Nicholas Park, Tracey Conyer Lee, Barry Shafrin, Gretchen Wylder, Courtney Basset and Colin Scott Cahill.
Brian Charles Rooney as Dionne Salon is pitch perfect and a tour de force diva.The show is cleverly directed and choreographed by Robert Bartley. Philip Heckman’s costumes and wigs by Bobbie Cliffton Zlotnik are off the chain.The band is headed by Ming Aldrich-Gan (Conductor/Keyboards) with Paul Heaney (Electric & Acoustic Guitar), Malcolm Gold (Bass) and Barbara Merjan (Drums & Percussion).
Several publications have compared this show to other cultish box office hits but I believe that “Bedbugs!!!” flies on it’s own laurels. This work has been in production for over six years with a headbanging score by Paul Leschen and humorous book by Fred Sauter. My only criticism is that it needs a little editing and a larger theatre.
“Bedbugs!!! it’s a musical” has been extended at ArcLight Theatre until November 2nd.
Photo credit: Rex Bonomelli.