New York City Theater
“Sit tight. They bite.” Or so the lyric warns us. But it’s hard not to scratch while watching “Bedbugs,” the zany new off-Broadway musical about those horrible creatures. The show, with tuneful music by Paul Leschen and clever book and lyrics by Fred Sauter is even more demented than “Little Shop of Horrors,” drawing upon not only that hit but the dream scene from “Fiddler on the Roof,” complete with a 12-foot tall virago.
Featuring a set of gaudily-dressed insects as colorful, dangerous, sexy and ambitious as any movie villains, the sci-fi spoof centers on Carly, a scientist hellbent on finding a way to exterminate the little buggers. She’s particularly keen on a solution since her own dear mother was munched to death.
In her way is a Celine Dion clone, here named Dionne Salon. As embodied by cross-dressing Brian Charles Rooney, Salon’s connection to the plot is random but who’s counting? Rooney is sensational.
To counter the vermin, frantic Carly (a wonderful Grace McLean) creates a spray so potent it causes not only the bugs to mutate but unintended personal consequences. The result is a nest of vermin headed by a glittery Frankenstein monster named Cimex, portrayed seductive rockstar style by Chris Hall.
“Bedbugs” is one of those shows that’s both glam and tacky. With a talented cast of ten that, with doubling, seems like hundreds, snappy direction and choreography by Robert Bartley and a snazzy onstage band, “Bedbugs” becomes downright lovable.
Rachel Carson had her “Silent Spring,” warning of pesticide’s dire consequences, countered by Carly’s own tome, “Bedtime for Bedbugs.” Can Carson, who figures in the evening, overcome the creatures’ own warnings: “Our ugly sides are showing / And soon the blood will be flowing”?
--David A. Rosenberg
Sept. 30, 2014