Sunday, October 7, 2012

Bayside High School Comes to NYC With All of Your Favorite "Zack Attack" Members.

Break out your oversized 90s cell phone and bottle of caffeine pills, as the "Zack Attack" has hit the East Village's Kraine Theater.  Alternatively known as either Bayside High School, or the beloved teen hangout, "The Max," depending on the scene, Kraine Theater has welcomed the wacky cast of  the 1989-1993 hit TV sitcom, "Saved By the Bell" to perform a musical about their school, friendships, and love lives.

Okay, actually, it's not the original cast, as they're all now approaching 40, nor is the show even authorized by the creators of the original "Saved By the Bell," but who's checking?  "Bayside! The Unmusical!" brings the audience back to that turbulent, grunge rock era that was the 90s.  Two electric guitarists accompany a spry cast of fresh, young faces to rekindle the love between "Zack" and "Kelly," cure "Jessie Spano" of her crippling over-the-counter pill addiction, help "AC Slater" find his passion, and help "Lisa Turtle" gossip and shop, and shop and gossip, all the while keeping up wise-cracks at the expense of the king of nerds, "Samuel 'Screech' Powers."  The guitarists, who together make up the only "orchestra" of the show, also happen to be the parody's writers and directors, cousins, Bob and Tobly McSmith.  Their rock music numbers are part-original, part parodies in themselves of famous songs such as "You're the One That I Want" from movie-musical, "Grease".

Slater confronts Jessie about her pill bottles
Photo by Curtis Peel
The show opens with an introductory musical number reminding the audience about some of the critical and most memorable storylines that their favorite characters were involved in while the show was popular.  For example, Jessie and Slater sing about how they're the "worst couple at Bayside."  Immediately, a few things are clear -- April Kidwell, who plays Jessie, has amazing comedic timing and is the glue that holds the show together, while her counterpart, Israel Viñas (Slater), is the one to watch for his perfect pitch and Broadway-style singing voice.

"Bayside! The Unmusical!" is quirky, sexually tinged, and full of many throwbacks to the original to catch the audience's attention - dream sequences, Zack freezing time, even buddy bands!  Follow the gang as they try to come up with a way to save The Max, which will be forced to close if they can't raise $500.  Along the way, reconnect with the characters you have come to know and love, whether via first run episodes or during the frequent reruns that still play on network TV to this day.

Will Zack and Kelly stay "friends forever"?
Photo by Curtis Peel
Zack, played by JD Scalzo, narrates the show and makes it clear that it's really all about him.  His character is nothing if not cool and a bit conceited.  Zack's love interest, Kelly, played by Caitlin Claessens, is beautiful as can be, and though her character as a flighty, promiscuous cheerleader is extremely exaggerated, the audience is nevertheless left with a genuine affection for her as she tries to break some important news to her beau.  Meanwhile, with bulging muscles, greased to shine and, well, bulge, Viñas prances around the stage in a classic onesie-style wrestling leotard, proclaiming his mutual love and hate for things like wrestling, and Jessie, while he wonders if the world will ever see him as "more than just a greasy, beefy stud-muffin."  As he ponders this, Slater eventually comes to an important realization that is a team-changer. Whoops, I mean game changer... Jessie, for better or worse, isn't really paying attention to this, as she is both so excited and so, so scared about whether or not she'll ever get into Stanford.  Keep an eye on her character improvisations and embellishments if you really want to crack up.

Shamira Clark, who plays Lisa, surprises the audience when she turns out to not only be black, but not half bad at rapping, and you can't help but notice that in a trendy, fashionable hat, she could be a dead ringer for Lark Voorhies, who played the original Lisa Turtle in the series.  Lisa is constantly pursued by Screech, played by Rachel Witz, who goes in and out of character to reference ways her predecessor, Dustin Diamond, has tried desperately to remain in the media spotlight in the real world (such as by creating and distributing a video of himself engaged in sexual self-gratification).

Of course, the Bayside High team wouldn't be complete if Mr. Belding weren't involved, especially as the kids recognize (and sing about how) they're the "only students at Bayside."  Actor and real-life criminal lawyer, Zachary Peters, nails Belding's signature "hey, hey hey!" and belly laughs.

Overall, for only $15 for a general admission ticket, "Bayside! The Musical!" is a fun way to spend a little over an hour reminiscing and laughing at the jokes that just never get old.  In fact, the show had opened and closed earlier in the year, but it was apparently saved by the bell, and brought back for the current limited engagement, at the end of September.  While the creators hope to keep it going for as long as possible, right now there are only four remaining shows scheduled, so buy your tickets now and get ready to go back to high school.  Go Bayside!

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