Entertainment » Theatre

Scream!

by Harker Jones
Tuesday Oct 21, 2014
Christine Lakin, Brian P. Kennedy (in background), Sarah Hyland and Jimmy Ray Bennett
Christine Lakin, Brian P. Kennedy (in background), Sarah Hyland and Jimmy Ray Bennett   (Source:Elliot Dal Pra London)

For the past few years, the trendy yet intimate eatery Rockwell in the Los Feliz neighborhood of Los Angeles has treated theater fans to a unique form of juke box musical through its For the Record series. Combining Hollywood and Broadway, For the Record intertwined the stories and songs from a specific director's film oeuvre (Quentin Tarantino, Baz Luhrmann, John Hughes) with actors performing scenes and music from the films throughout the room in an enveloping take on dinner theater.

In a similar vein and just in time for Halloween, Rockwell has premiered its new Unauthorized series with a musical take on "Scream," the classic Wes Craven/Kevin Williamson slasher flick of the '90s. A campy, loving send-up, "Scream" pays homage to the film (much of the dialogue is word for word from the script) while also flaying it for its limitations (Sidney's father just HAPPENS to be going out of town while a murderer is killing kids his daughter's age).

"Modern Family" star Sarah Hyland takes over from Neve Campbell as our hapless (but not helpless) heroine Sidney Prescott, whose mother's death the year before hangs over her as her friends start being murdered. Hyland (despite an awkward and unfortunate wig) acquits herself well with wide-eyed innocence and pluck-and she's got fantastic pipes. Her version of "Knockin' On Heaven's Door" brings down the house.

Unfortunately, she gets only uneven support from the ensemble, which doesn't congeal as it should. Jonah Platt as Billy, all dumb swaggering sexuality, is a breakout, delivering humor and pathos with aplomb. Christine Lakin as Tatum gets some of the best lines and the biggest laughs. And the Screamettes (Carly Jibson, Chauntae Pink and Tyler Scheef), a sort of Greek chorus, are spot-on, with Jibson being a particular standout, and their take on "Killing Me Softly" being a highlight.

Yet, Jimmy Ray Bennett as Randy is forgettable until he gets his one big song ("Creep"), at which point he knocks it out of the park. Marla Mindelle, as intrepid reporter Gale Weathers, while game, hits too many off-key notes. And the writer-directors, Michael Gans and Richard Register, as the co-narrators, aren't in sync, as they need to be.

They talk over each other and bumble their lines as characters who need to be practically speaking out of the same mouth to create the right rhythm. It was unfortunate that with advertised stars Missi Pyle and "Buffy the Vampire Slayer's" Tom Lenk scheduled to play, respectively, Gale and Randy, they weren't there for opening night, which may explain why the flow was a bit off.

The house band with direction by Brian P. Kennedy was fantastic whether supporting '70s ("Don't Fear the Reaper"), '80s ("Birds Fly [Whisper to a Scream]") or '90s songs ("Bitch"), and the energy of the cast did keep the show afloat, up until the very last scene, which, oddly, didn't even have one of the killers present, and even more oddly told us instead of showed us a vague and convoluted resolution without really resolving anything. One got the sense they were trying to keep the ending from being spoiled for people who hadn't seen the film. Why they failed to create a grand finale with a show-stopping song and dance number is the biggest mystery of all and made the whole thing feel like one big fizzle.

Kudos to the creators for trying something new, but after the rousing and romantic Baz Luhrmann musical (featuring the stories and songs of "The Great Gatsby," "Strictly Ballroom," "Moulin Rouge!" and "William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet"), among other For the Record shows, the bar was set rather high for cabaret at Rockwell.

(Be forewarned, there is a two-item minimum because this is a dining and theater experience. The prices are not outrageous for the Los Feliz area and the food is quite good, but be prepared to budget it in.)

"Scream" runs through Nov. 15 at Rockwell Table and Stage, 1714 N. Vermont in Los Angeles. For information or tickets, call 323-669-1550 ext. 20 or visit www.rockwell-la.com.


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