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|A CurtainUp Review
It's Karate, Kid!, the Musical
By Amanda Cooper
Alright fine, so I'm instantly skeptical of remakes of decade-specific movies, but I am also hopeful that one of these productions might one day indulge guilty pleasures and be creative in its own right. It's Karate, Kid! The Musical has impeccable 80s attire but though it doesn't succeed in translating the "life-is-hard-and-heavy, man" oomph behind every cult classic from said decade, what it does is much more -- and it does so in such excess that it's impossible to catch everything that happens, and seeing the show a second time is a viable option.
Make no mistake, this is not the Mr. Miyagi that we grew to know and love over four films, and there is nothing sweet and innocent about any of these characters. This production is trashy, flashy, flaming, raunchy, and flaming (it deserves to be said twice). Though Daniel-san is still flanked by Ali, a saccharine, upscale gal, his interest in her is no more than a plot point (you know, so karate expert/ex-boyfriend Johnny will kick his ass).
Karate Kid, the movie, may share a general story line with this musical, but this time around each character's motivations is sex, and each male character prefers the homosexual variety. Of course this homoerotic lens does bring about plot issues and renders some characters useless, but don't think too hard about it or you'll just be wasting brain cells and missing the top of the next scene.
Author Travis Kramer seems to savor a twilight-zoned 1980s California, where both teenagers and adults party on the beach, speak an amalgam of cheesy movie talk and uber streetspeak, and openly share their sex and drugs life. Everything is a dirty joke, and if something flies past, perhaps you need to study that program back page glossary more carefully, or perhaps you lucked out and missed a lemon. Either is possible for Kramer is clever and quick, but often too blatant. He still needs to learn that our own imaginations can push far beyond spelled out sex slights.
The show's nineteen songs are at times reminiscent of the 80s but always ripped from a pre-written song. They range from classics like "Gem is truly outrageous" to tunes that don't even sounding familiar. Complete with brand new, usually kinky lyrics, also penned by Kramer, these melodies float between rock, swing and hip-hop. From "Why am I always tricking like a back alley slut," to "Bitchkicks!/Juggernauts with twats!" Kramer spares no slang.
The staging team is large: Director Jake Hirzel, Choreographer Jennifer L. Mudge and fight choreographer Qui Nguyen. Not one of them is superfluous and as a team they create colorful, hysterical scenes that pulse with energy and consistently impress.
But the standouts of the evening are the shockingly talented cast. They can ALL rock a song, slam out a dance, and serve up a tautly acted scene. Extra special mentions go to Matthew Simpkins as the ever-energetic constantly tossed around Daniel-san, and Sarah Hubbard as the sparky, oblivious Ali.
Life isn't perfect, and neither is It's Karate, Kid!, the Musical, but the show is loveable none the less. It revels in its own sick, irreverent squalor. It's amazing that all involved in the production have chosen to work with this insanity…but they have chosen well.
Easy-on-the budget super gift for yourself and your musical loving friends. Tons of gorgeous pictures.
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
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At This Theater
Leonard Maltin's 2005 Movie Guide
Ridiculous!The Theatrical Life & Times of Charles Ludlam
6, 500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by CurtainUp's editor.
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