Invincible, The Legend of Billie Jean -- The Musical
Spoofs of popular bad movies or TV shows are nothing new, but they can be hit or miss depending on the cleverness of the writers and cast. Overplay the obvious and it becomes a bit of a dud. Hit the nuances right, however, and you’ve got it nailed. Thankfully, this is the giddy tone of "Invincible, The Legend of Billie Jean -- The Musical" which knows how to make fun of a beloved bad movie and still make it smart and clever.
The ’80s film has become a cult classic due to its nutty storyline, self-serious speeches ("fair is fair!") and random coming-of-age nonsense (the actress who plays the voice of Lisa Simpson gets her period in the back seat of a beat up car.) In reality, the movie is kind of a drag, but it’s the weirdo structure and plot that people love to make fun of.
In short, Billie Jean (Helen Slater) is a hot redneck teenage girl who lives in a trailer park with her loving mother and brother Binx (Christan Slater). Her relationship with her brother is a bit gross as they seem more like sexually frustrated boyfriend and girlfriend then siblings. Anyway, Binx has a motorbike that some roughnecks smash up because Billie Jean won’t give "it" up to them.
Binx gets the bike back, but is beaten in the process. So Billie Jean storms down to the auto repair shop owned by the main bully’s father where she demands the kid (Hubey) pay back the $608 it will cost to fix the bike. Hubey’s dad Mr. Pyatt tries to work out a deal with Billie Jean that would include him forcefully having sex with her. (Sounds logical to me).
This doesn’t sit well with brother Binx who pulls a gun on Mr. Pyatt that he finds in the cash register. Before you can say "what is up with all these crazy names?" the gun accidentally goes off and Mr. Pyatt is shot. The kids dash out and soon enough they are on the lam with two of their friends in tow.
The "legend" of Billie Jean is that their story inexplicably makes national headlines and the rumors about her and her friends being violent delinquents begin to swell. Stranger still, after she videotapes her "we’re innocent and not going to take it anymore" speech that they send to the news outlets, she becomes this hero for a new age and teens across the country become infatuated with her.
Along the way Billie Jean will cut off her hair (after seeing two minutes of "Saint Joan"), save an abused child, and make her famous speech that includes her nonsensical mantra, "fair is fair." (Seems fairly obvious, no? "Tree is tree!")
Directed by Kurt Koehner, the spoof musical is a loving and hilarious homage to ludicrousness. You might remember that the only good thing to come out of the film was the theme song called "Invincible" by Pat Benatar. Benatar notoriously hated the film, so it’s only fitting that her music be used "jukebox-musical" style to aid in telling the story.
Oddly enough, the songs fit quite nicely. But it’s really the cast that makes this dizzy confection soar. Everyone -- from the members of the small ensemble who play multiple roles to Jacquelyn Denning’s Putter (the infamous period-getter) to Sam Pancake’s dude Binx to Matthew Herrmann’s dual role as Hubey and rich boy Lloyd -- is terrific.
But as Billie Jean, Jennifer Dohn is the show’s true star. Every winking nuance of the character is played to giggly perfection. She knows how to play the character so straight that it makes it that much more entertaining, not to mention, the girl has some pipes on her. She’s just a delight to watch and reminded me of a young Kristen Wiig. She’s that good.
Benatar’s music is cleverly dispersed throughout and used in inventive ways. "Shadows of the Night" is particularly amusing when, halfway through, the cast is literally dancing with their "shadows." That said, the show doesn’t make fun of Benatar’s music. In fact, it just displays how awesome it is and how relevant it can still be.
That’s the beauty of it. We’re laughing at the mocking of a film that deserves to be mocked, but then rocking out in our seats to some incredible ’80s classics. What more could you want?
"Invincible, The Legend of Billie Jean -- The Musical" runs through March 23 at the Cavern Club Celebrity Theater, Casita Del Campo, 1920 Hyperion Ave, Silverlake, CA. For info or tickets, visit www.brownpapertickets.com or www.invinciblelive.com