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Jersey Shoresical: A Frickin’ Rock Opera (Fringe Festival 2011)

by Karen Tortora-Lee on August 26, 2011

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Jersey Shore is a show on MTV that, in and of itself, is already parody – boldly mocking an easily mockable subculture known as the Guido and Guidette.  All executive producer SallyAnn Salsano had to do was sit back, let the cameras roll, and watch as these buff, well tanned, dark haired over-accessorized not-too-bright kids perfected the art of GTL (Gym, Tan, Laundry), avoided making out with Grenades, beat up the beat on the dance floor, got drunk, then got into each other business (and beds) and just generally ran amok.  The formula was keyed into the system early on and everyone involved with this runaway hit just had to sit back and ride the wave of success ever since, following their cash cows from the eponymous Jersey Shore to Miami, to Italy and back again.  So, frankly, does a show this rife with built in self-mockery require a parody  … in the form of a Rock Opera no less?  If that show is Jersey Shoresical: A Frickin’ Rock Opera then the answer is (cue the fist pump) oh hell yeah.

The first time I’d heard of the MTV show was early on from a 17 year old girl.  This was the type of precocious young woman who read Graham Greene, was studying archaeology – didn’t touch alcohol but could explain the difference between a Cabernet and a Bordeaux … and certainly never watched trashy TV.  So when she stared explaining the “plot” of Jersey Shore and footnoted her rant with a maniacal “I can’t stop watching it!!!!” I couldn’t help but say “Wait, you’re being ironic, right?” She leaned in to me with a wild gleam in her eye, put there by the inability to contain the over spillage of guilty pleasure, and whispered, “I don’t know!

There is a strange intoxication that comes from dipping your toe into the Jersey Shore franchise.  Once you give yourself over to a few episodes (whatever reason you have … “sick day”, “nothing else was on”, “wanted to see what all the fuss was about”, “my cousin was watching it” … Uh HUH) you’re as powerless to turn away from it as Sammi Sweetheart is to turn away from Ronnie  (even though she knows he’s out there double kissing grenades before stumbling home and climbing into her bed to smoosh).  But say you haven’t watched a day of the show in your life.  Does this Frickin’ Rock Opera still hold up?

You bet your Blowout it does.

Jersey Shoresical begins with a talented Greek chorus cum doo-wop trio who also double as the “Random Sluts” (Kimmy Gatewood, Aynsley Bubbico and Meghan Parks).  This trio catch us up with fun and flair – everything we need to know about how the show came into being and what we can expect from these crazy kids.  Soon the whole gang start arriving.

There’s diminutive, likable Snookie (Karen Diconcetto) followed by gorgeous, in-your-face J-Woww (played by Derrick Barry).  Mike “The Situation” (Max Crumm) is full of self-love and hard abs — a perfect bookend to sweet, smiling, affable Pauly D (Mark Shunock). Complex Sammi “The Sweetest Bitch You’ll Ever Meet” (Hanna LoPatin) is immediately drawn to over-buff knucklehead Ronnie (Daniel Franzese), all while mamma’s boy Vinnie (Mike Ciriaco) tries to keep the peace.  On the fringe is nobody’s favorite, Staten Island Dump Angelina (Rebekka Johnson).

Music Director (and keyboard player) Mike Meehan helps the cast musically review the highlights (and low-lights) of Jersey Shore Lore … everything that fans are looking for is there in song, verse, break out production number or even just small throwaway line. Rentheads will be particularly thrilled at several easter eggs placed in the Frickin’ Rock Opera; I won’t give them away but they are delightful and sophisticated.

Make no mistake – Jersey Shoresical‘s source material is vapid and stupid but  the Book, Music and Lyrics written by Daniel Franzese (who plays Ronnie) and Hanna LoPatin (who plays Sammie Sweetheart) elevates it to another level altogether.  By including some touching ballads such as “Bitch In A Bed” in which Sammi admits she’s a fool for her man this team proves they know how to take even the most meaningless of worlds and give it some depth.   After all, if you cut a Guido, does it not bleed?  And then does it not cut you back, bitch?

Director Drew Droege keeps the pacing quick and with no actual set enlists some clever props in order to create this Seaside Heights paradise.  Standout moments include J-Woww’s “Grow Some Balls” and Snookie’s plea to find a nice “Gorilla Juicehead”.  Costumes by MARCOMARCO and the House of Infinite Radness do much to help this talented cast emulate the Guido culture and special props on the T-shirts which are worthy of T Shirt Time.  (If you haven’t realized by now … I’ve seen more than my fair share of Shore episodes.)

There is one very funny moment when Angelina (played by Rebekka Johnson) gets kicked out of the house only to re-emerge a scene later as Deena.  No costume change, just a wig plopped on her head.  The reason this is so funny is because, honestly, most of the Guidettes of this world look exactly alike anyway, save for a few stylistic differences.  The irony was delightfully satisfying and worked on several levels.

Fans of (or those who admit to watching) Jersey Shore will love Jersey Shoresical for the extreme attention to detail paid by the creative team.  People who have never seen one moment of Jersey Shore will also love Jersey Shoresical – because the final product is just that good.  Either way, this was one hour of entertainment that left me clamoring for more.


Jersey Shoresical: A Frickin’ Rock Opera

Writer: Book, Music & Lyrics by Daniel Franzese and Hanna LoPatin
Director: Drew Droege

1h 0m
VENUE #14: Bleecker Theatre
Sun 28 @ 2

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