We gave it a B
Nine years ago, the Showgirls V.I.P. Edition DVD was released with a third-party commentary track by Seattle-based writer David Schmader, who extolled the film’s legacy thusly: ”Showgirls triumphs in that every single person involved in the making of the film is making the worst possible decision at every possible time.” That is the real subject of Showgirls! The Musical!, an Off Broadway spoof of the 1995 film that won seven Razzie Awards, including Worst Actress (Elizabeth Berkley), Worst Director (Paul Verhoeven), Worst Screenplay (Joe Eszterhas), and Worst Screen Couple (Any Combination of Two People or Two Body Parts). To borrow a phrase from Berkley’s Nomi Malone — the stripper/dreamer with a mysterious past, flaccid nipples, and equally nice nails and tits — it doesn’t suck.
The 90-minute stage musical, playing on Wednesdays and Saturdays at the gay hotspot XL Nightclub, Cabaret & Lounge, is from Bob and Tobly McSmith, the folks behind Bayside! The Saved By the Bell Musical! The new show stars the McSmiths’ Jessie Spano, the limber, Leslie Mann-lookalike April Kidwell, whose intentional, pitch-perfect overacting makes you forget that she is topless much of the time. (While the choreography for the ensemble dance numbers is done for laughs, Kidwell’s pole work during the song ”Don’t Lick That Pole” earns genuine applause.)
It’s worth noting that XL has a two-drink minimum — really, the base amount of alcohol you should have in your system to appreciate the sight of three audience members giving a standing ovation to Rena Riffel, the actress reprising her role as Penny from the film, after her solo, ”No One Wants to F— a Penny.”
You don’t need to stay sober to recall the lyrics and melodies at the end of the night (they’re not quite clever or catchy enough to commit to memory anyway). But you do want to feel the satisfaction of spotting references in the moment. Everything that deserves to take a hit does: ”The Best Friend Song” shines a light on the male-fantasy sexual tension between Nomi and Molly (who is often referred to as ”Black Seamstress” and portrayed here by a man, Marcus Desion, who also plays dance tutor James). ”F—ing Underwater” forces you to acknowledge that the pool sex scene is the moment you’ve spent $20 to see (yes, there is thrashing). ”(I Used to Love) Doggie Chow” uses verbatim movie dialogue from Nomi’s sit-down with Cristal (a scene-stealing Rori Nogee, darlin’). And Kyle MacLachlan’s character, played by John E. Elliott, is simply called Kyle MacLachlan.
There’s a large LED wall running the width of the stage, used to display a Versace storefront, a tour poster for the rechristened Andrew Rapersoon, and the word ”Whorrier” (revenge-seeking Nomi’s name for herself). It’s impossible to call this production anything other than a guilty pleasure. Then again, if you’re a fan of Showgirls, that’s precisely what you’re after. B