Showgirls Through October 3; Thursday-Saturday, 8 p.m.; Sunday, 5 p.m., $20. Onyx Theatre, 702-732-7225.
In an email promoting the new musical Showgirls at the Onyx Theatre (a parody of the so-bad-it’s-good-or-maybe-it’s-just-really-bad NC-17 movie about strippers, showgirls and Vegas), director Troy Heard calls it “The Most Important Theatrical Event in the History of Western Civilization.” Consider it the marketing version of Poe’s law, clearly delineating that you can’t take it seriously, and turning irony into a shield: If you’re not enjoying yourself you’re clearly not in on the joke, and you’re asking for too much from a show that isn’t meant to be taken seriously.
I take things seriously, even comedy. It’s not that I don’t like to have fun or don’t understand irony. I just want the makers of a show to give it the same respect—even in search of ridiculous comedy—that they’re asking of the audience. In this sense, Showgirls let me down repeatedly, never feeling more than a rushed, one-note joke.
It wasn’t all bad. Kady Heard went all in for her portrayal of Nomi, the stripper with a heart of crazy bitch who claws her way to the top of the Vegas showgirl world. She was supported by a strong cast, including Natalie Senecal as her infatuated quasi-lesbian roommate Molly; Amanda Kraft chewing scenery (in a good way) as diva queen Cristal; and Ross Horvitz sleezing his way through multiple roles. Stephen Sissoon was hilarious in drag as Mama Bazoom and rocked a fabulous orange suit as Tony Moss. Costumes were excellent throughout, including a stupendous amount of wigs. The set captured the Vegas “classy”/tawdry energy of the show, and Heard transitioned well between various locales.
But the jokes were mainly winks at the awfulness of the source material—repeated elbow nudges reminding the audience that anything this bad must be funny, right? And for a musical, there were surprisingly few people who could actually sing. Granted, everyone’s vocal performance was hindered by a truly awful sound mix, but even so, far too many actors had problems staying on pitch, keeping rhythm and even supporting their voices. It didn’t help that all the numbers were parody versions of Prince songs, which can be demanding vocally. Even though they were arranged to be shorter, they felt long, and the lyrics were largely just placeholders to repeat one joke in each song. (“Little Red Corvette” into “Little Red Tampax” being the best, versus “I Will Pool Sex You” shoehorned into “I Would Die for You.”)
Nomi never really becomes a star, and this show never really rises above its hacky roots. Whether or not it matters seems to be a moot point. The night I saw it the rest of the audience seemed to agree with Heard’s email, reveling in a riotous party that I—despite being present for—definitely didn’t feel part of.