At the heart of every story is a hero (most often a young man) embarking on a journey that will test his resolve and the relationships with those around him, as he encounters and overcomes obstacles, uncovers hidden truths and ends with the hero gaining a greater sense of self and overall enlightenment. This well-known premise is given a fantastically comedic spin in Parker & Dizzy’s Fabulous Journey To The End of the Rainbow, currently playing at the Theater For the New City, located in the East Village, for a limited run from now through January 26th, music and lyrics by Peter Zachari and Damon Maida, book by Peter Zachari.
[Brief Disclaimer: Once more, I must disclose that Peter is a very good friend of mine, whose shows I have seen and also in which I have invested; I am also good friends with cast member (and choreographer) Joey Mirabile both of whom I had met three years ago when Parker & Dizzy had its world premiere at the New York International Fringe Festival. As stated before, the opinions and musings stated in this blog are my own, with no influence from the playwright. This is not a formal review or critique – I’m not a critic, I’m just an average theatergoer.]
The musical is a clever mash-up of Da Vinci Code and Star Wars with a gay twist, as the titular characters unwittingly find themselves on a quest to find and prevent the secret of the gay Holy Grail from falling into the hands of the evil Mentor. A fellowship of sorts is formed when Parker and Dizzy gain allies who help in their quest across the island of Manhattan, deciphering clues and combating the Mentor’s minions. Loss, betrayal, and pithy pearls of wisdom are bestowed as the journey culminates with an epic showdown leading to good triumphing over evil, and a happy ending for all.
This production of Parker & Dizzy [as the show will be henceforth called, as the title is really, really long to type out repeatedly] is an updated version of the show that was originally presented in 2011, as there were many topical pop culture references scattered about the show, many of which are no longer prevalent in 2013/2014. Moreover, newer songs were added as others songs were removed for various reasons (the fourth wall is broken near the beginning of act two where a song was removed due to the critics’ observation that it was too sentimental. Whether or not that observation is a true statement remains to be seen, but then again, these are critics we are talking/writing about, so who knows?) There is a new Act Two opening, which incorporated a rousing dance number performed with great alacrity and precision by the cast, as well as a new ending (perhaps rewritten at the behest of those aforementioned critics who thought the ending was too sentimental). While the first production’s resolution was a heartfelt and sweet, the revised production’s ending reminded me of the dénouement reminiscent of Spamalot – very tongue in cheek and perhaps more in alignment with the overall spirit of the musical. Having seen both productions, I liked both endings, though the writer in me enjoyed the quiet, sentimental dénouement of the original; neither is “better” than the other, but they are both brilliant in their own ways.
The score contained a dazzling array of catchy songs, both campy and rousing, among which are (respectfully) “GPeniS” and “Hero of This Dream” – the melodies are memorable, and the lyrics are clever. I certainly hope an official cast recording is made at some point – it’s not often these days where a musical has an original score, not derived from pop songs (though a fantastic mix of pop songs plays throughout the theater before, during intermission and after the show, adding to the overall campy atmosphere so prevalent in the plot). As mentioned earlier, there is a smattering of pop culture references, references to other films such as Ghost, Thelma & Louise, and Mommie Dearest, as well as a whole lot of innuendo throughout, risqué yet never (too) vulgar (though I suppose that’s subjective). The cast was astounding and energetic, one could sense the joy exuded from their every move (more often than not while wearing four-inch stiletto heels). The set design was minimalist, with a long string of Christmas lights framing the stage area, and the band off to one side; the costumes were fantastically campy as well. An added bonus was the small tables set out in the front row (and a few in the second row) adorned with light pink tablecloth, which reminded me of the cabaret tables that had been set up for the most recent revival of La Cage aux Folles (not too surprising, as Joey Mirabile is also known as “CoCo of Times Square”, promoting that aforementioned production of La Cage in Times Square, which is also how I initially met and got to know him).
I thoroughly enjoyed this revised version of Parker & Dizzy as much as I enjoyed the initial production – funny, campy (in a good way) with fleeting moments of seriousness and sincerity, plus a lot of fierceness and ultimately friendship. For all its glitz and glamour, drag queens and divas, in the end it’s about the endurance and resilience of the friendships the titular pair have, and its ability to overcome anything that stands in its way.
For more information on Parker & Dizzy, please visit their website: http://www.parkeranddizzy.com/