It wasn’t all that long ago when New Yorkers were terrified by repeated news stories about objects which were smaller than a poppy seed. These insidious, blood sucking creatures took refuge in our mattresses, sofas, movie theater seats, and even in subways. They were nearly indestructible and while DDT proved to be a sure remedy, the government put the kabosh on it, citing personal health and environmental issues. For years, they fell into relative obscurity before making a recent comeback . Now, these minuscule creatures of doom have returned to the Upper West Side , bringing with them infectiously fun eighties flavored tunes and fun lyrics.
There is so much that is right about Bedbugs!!! that it’s challenging to offer any criticism. This surprisingly well rounded musical comedy from the creative minds of Paul Leschen and Fred Sauter offers enough lighthearted fun to make even the most vehement scaredy cat comes to terms with their entomophobia.
Bedbugs begins in 1989 where young Carly (Grace McLean) is watching her favorite singer, Dionne Salon (Brian Charles Rooney) on The Tonight Show. So entrenched in her music coming from her TV screen, young Carly fails to hear the cry of her mother (Gretchen Wylder) who pleads for help before a fatal bedbug attack. Determined to seek vengeance, an adult Carly (now a chemist) sets her sights on ridding the world of her mother’s attackers. With the assistance of her colleague Burt, she actually makes the problem worse. Not only are they back, but they’ve formed a gang and have set out to brainwash the well intended Carly, who nearly falls prey to the seduction of Cimex (Chris Hall). Oh, but fear not! Our protagonist won’t be caught in the dark side forever.
In true campy fashion, only Dionne Salon can breathe redemption into this tale. Rooney is not your typical drag diva impersonator. With each glance and every breeze from the wind machine blowing through his hair, he creates a persona that is sincere, flawless, and drop-dead hilarious.
McLean’s commanding and impresive rock vocals lend a genuine edginess to the proceedings, while her bug lover, Cimex (Hall) adds unique quirkiness and impeccable comic insight. If you’ve ever wondered how bed bugs copulate, your curious itch shall be scratched. The remaining ensemble rounds out the show with effortless timing, supported only by a hugely talented creative team. Philip Heckman’s costumes alone deserve a trophy .
Bedbugs!!! was originally presented at the 2008 New York Musical Festival, where it recieved critical acclaim. Producers were wise to bring it back and share this silly, yet well crafted show to a broader audience. The age old adage of humor being the best medicine works here, and while that particular remedy may not aid an actual infestation, it will more than satisfy your craving for a dementedly outrageous night of theatrical entertainment.
Bedbugs!!! is now playing at the ArcLight Theatre, 152 West 71st street between Broadway and Columbus Ave. For tickets and more information, visit http://www.bedbugsmusical.com/