In comparison to other mediums, reality television can be seen as yet another highly produced, staged production. It’s a hard comparison to argue what with angles, lighting, “character” profiles, and maybe/maybe not a script. But needless to say most every reality show on the air contains enough drama and spectacle to fill an opera – if someone dared to try, that is. And thus an opportunity was born in the form of Jersey Shoresical: A Frickin’ Rock Opera.
The musical follows eight to nine spray-tanned and eager twenty-somethings during the summer as they share a home on none other than the Jersey shore. Snooki (Karen DiConcetto), J-WoWW (William Belli), Pauly D (Mark Shunock), Sammi Sweetheart (Hanna LoPatin), Ronnie (Daniel Franzese), Angelina (Rebekka Johnson), Vinnie (Mike Ciriaco), The Situation (Josh Covitt), and later, Snooki’s friend Deena (Johnson) are likely household names by now. Surely, what carry both productions are these larger-than-life personalities. The only difference between this production’s cast and that of the reality show of a similar name (aside from a generous use of expletives instead of bleep censoring) is the level of talent. When embodied by the actors onstage, the focal point really becomes the personalities, and not necessarily the extravagant situations involved. All of which is apropos, considering there are very little props utilized outside of a chair, light-up sunglasses, fake muscles and jar of pickles.
At the heart of this rock opera is desire for romance, albeit in a twisted and convoluted sense. Ronnie and Sammi Sweetheart’s push-pull attraction versus scoring “guidettes” on the Shore are highlighted in the musical number and reprise “I Fucking Love You“, an interchange between the characters that – admittedly or not – at least simulates some love relationships, if not the best of them. Also, Snooki’s desire for a “gorilla juicehead” is immortalized in the number “Snooki’s Lament“. So while there is a bit of heart behind the implants and Juicy Couture, the musical still portrays a very superficial sense, and if it did any more than that, its credibility could be easily questioned.
Throughout this performance, individual characters make a splash on their own — J-WoWW, Snooki and Angelina, for instance – but some fall by the wayside. For instance, when it came time for The Situation’s self-reflection/number, it almost felt like an afterthought – a mood not felt when in the company of Vinnie and Pauly D. In the play, each character is given their own chance to shine, and whether or not it is accomplished, the real strength is in the collective ensemble, onstage together, making fun of television, voyeurism, stereotypes and extremes.
There’s almost no doubt that anyone who bears preconceived notions concerning the musical based on MTV’s Jersey Shore will probably have those notions justified and then some. At the same time, however, the conventional qualities of theater manage to make sense of the blurry situations that can arise from too much alcohol and clubbing – especially when done with functional musical numbers and stage presence. At the very least, we recommend not judging the book by its cover, or rather, the musical based on its reality show inspiration. So check out Jersey Shoresical at the Bootleg Theater while you can. It’s easily one of the more fun, unique experiences you’ll have.
Bootleg Theater 2220 Beverly Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90057 (213) 389-3856
August 3 & 10 @ 8 p.m.