Plastic, leather, and love all reign supreme with Up In Your Face’s production of Saucy Jack and the Space Vixens. Not familiar with the show? In 1995, this wildly campy space musical/murder mystery/rock opera was the blitzkrieg hit of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Lucky me, I saw it in Scotland that year, the first week of the Festival (before you couldn’t get tickets for love nor money), and in a year with over 500 productions, SJ&TSV became the absolute must see. Since that time, it’s never been off the stage, with performances around the globe.
Lucky you: it’s here right now at the DC Fringe. It’s still a strange, goofy, and quirky show, best for adult audiences with open minds and a hankering for some of the catchiest music by Jonathan Croose and Robin Forrest with the kitschiest of lyrics by Charlotte Mann and Michael Fidler.
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Awash in double, triple, and quadruple entendres, the plot is completely unbelievable and completely irrelevant: boy meets girl in a space bar on some distant planet, girl meets girl in same space bar, ditto for plastic-loving German scientist and hunky bartender, the trio of buxom, bouncing Space Vixens solve some murders, everyone wears platform shoes, and who really cares what else, just sit back and enjoy.
Some of the highest highlights were the voices of Lorna Ryan as Chesty (and Vulva and Shirley) and Emily ‘EJ’ Jonas as Bunny; goodness, those two can sing. As Dr Von Whackoff, Jonathon Barger just has to do the rubber-faced side-glancing eyes thing and we are with him all the way. It’s a funny part anyway, and his overwrought German accent is grandly over the top. As Jack, Tony Lemus has a fine voice but misses the mark of the character: he just isn’t oily and seductive enough: his Jack is more Fonzie and less Frank-N-Furter.
Yet the real standout is Peelee Clark as Booby Shevalle, a transvestite waitress with a song in her heart and not too many marbles upstairs. You just can’t stop watching him, whether dancing, singing, flinging a few zingers or just lounging at the bar in the background. That’s not a surprise: as producer, director and choreographer, Clark has more credits to his name than most of the cast combined, and an impressive professional career. Yet someone of Clark’s caliber in the cast has the unfortunate effect of making some of the weaker performers look punier by comparison.
Saucy Jack and the Space Vixens closes July 28, 2019 Details and tickets
It’s regrettable that the show’s music is prerecorded, and that the space at Honey Stage just isn’t ideal for this production: a basement room with lousy acoustics is no place for Saucy Jack’s bar. And on premiere night, sound was so muddy you couldn’t make out the excessively witty lyrics, and the snap-crackle-pop of cheap microphones was enough to drive one to distraction. Let’s hope that gets attended to before the next performance.
But I’m not going to dwell on its few defects: the show is terrific regardless. Despite the technical problems and the relative inexperience of some of the performers, the cast as a whole has enough chutzpah, energy and downright charm to infect any crowd. It’s the kind of show you clap along to, yell encouragement to the cast, and even snap your fingers along with the dancers. And it’s the least appropriate show you’ll ever see in a church, trust me. Who could resist songs like “Glitter Boots Saved My Life,” “All I Need Is Disco,” and “Saucy Jack’s”?
More plastic! More leather! More love!
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