Perez, honey, like you need any more attention!
It’s so easy these days. Step one: Kick-start a snarky blog dedicated to harassing Hollywood’s brightest, meanest, cutest, dumbest stars and starlets (that would be the very real PerezHilton.com, America’s go-to website for “Celebrity Juice, Not From Concentrate”).
Step two: Friend the fame monster, and bask in the notoriety.
Step three: Relish the silly love letter that is Perez Hilton Saves The Universe, a musical all about you.
And we thought you had a big head already!
It’s almost too bad that the show is, actually, great. As the DC premiere of the New York Fringe’s 2008 Winner of Outstanding Musical, Landless Theatre Company’s production is one part biography and ten parts absurdist devotional fable-making, hit with a liberal dollop of NC-17 sex gags. Et voila. Goofy, rude, musical bliss, from the pop-rock opening (do I detect “Replay” by Iyaz in the overture?) through the stirring ensemble closer, in which nine dancing actors somehow make DCAC’s stage seem bigger than tiny.
The central conflict is about as subtle as Hilton’s signature pink coiffure (which, truth be told, looks more like a dead Muppet than actual hair on the head of actor and Landless Producing Artistic Director Andrew Lloyd Baughman). While a crowd of attention-hungry celebs hounds the gossip blogger for attention 24/7 – and the writer himself, in some quieter moments, longs for something more – a faraway pair of Al-Qaeda operatives named Habib (Cyle Durkee) and Kebab (Mickey DaGuiso) plan on bombing Los Angeles though an elaborate scheme that starts with highjacking PerezHilton.com. Once the blog falls under extremist hands, Habib can reveal the secret location of Britney Spears’ wake, which will lure the infidel masses to a collective ka-boom.
Only a secret love affair between Perez and the closeted Kebab has the power to neutralize such evil intentions. Let the terrorists win? “Over my dead gay body!” declares Hilton, his chin in the air.
Such broad satire’s often crass and sloppy, but where’s the fun in that? Instead, we’re treated to a romanticized portrait. The real Perez Hilton’s a total gadfly, but here he’s the tragic hero: a melancholy and misunderstood gatekeeper of knowledge, beset by a shallow readership’s reactionary hatred. In a city of dreamers he is the only one who’s not looking for fame – a sad state of affairs, given that the story’s set in an alternate reality where Miley, Gaga, Cruise, Efron et. al. have a real, true need for his writerly efforts. By posting all the gossip of the golden kingdom, he helps his weak-minded compatriots survive.
From here, saving the universe doesn’t sound so far-fetched after all. It doesn’t hurt that the set by Jared Davis – a scenic little panorama of Los Angeles and its iconic landmarks – only comes up to waist-level, endowing the actors with Godzilla-sized stature. Talk about looking down on high society.
Baughman brings a bighearted, cuddly charisma to his character, but each scene pulls some equally strong supporting voices center stage. Nora Palka, playing Hilton’s hapless assistant Alyssa, is all sugar and smiles as she longs, in a solo ballad, for a media outlet of her own. As the ruthless comedienne Kathy Griffin, spunky Heather Scheeler gets one of the more memorable songs to herself, called, understandably, “It’s Kathy.” And although the corps of impersonators – I haven’t even mentioned the sudden appearance of Tiger Woods, Snooki, Jaleel White and JWoww – get by more on their costumes than on actual caricature, it all goes down easy. In headline Hollywood, the devil’s not usually in the details.
And, eventually, Hollywood rubs off on everyone. Not even irate old Habib can escape the cultural quicksand (in fact, his red-faced attempts to berate little Kebab in the car while also trying to order a drive-thru burger from In-N-Out is one of the best parts of the show).
Rarely has a story featuring so many real-life characters revealed so little about reality. So, don’t go looking for enlightening socioeconomic commentary about the modern entertainment industry. Go for the greasy charm of big egos and the adrenaline rush of the desperately glitzy. Some might say an idiot musical about a gossip blogger can’t touch our hearts.
“But I’m Perez Hilton,” our hero proclaims. “I touch everybody.”
Perez Hilton Saves The Universe!
Book by Randy Blair & Timothy Michael Drucker
Lyrics by Zach Redler
Music by Randy Blair
Directed and choreographed by Karissa Swanigan
Produced by Landless Theatre Company
Reviewed by Hunter Styles
Perez Hilton Saves the Universe! runs thru June 3, 2010.
For Details, Directions and Tickets, click here.