Presented by Back It Up Productions as part of the seventh annual New York International Fringe Festival at the Wings Theatre Company, 154 Christopher St., NYC, Aug. 10-23.
Movies ranging from "The Stepford Wives" to "The Manchurian Candidate" to "Charlie's Angels" take a licking in D'Arcy Drollinger's mildly amusing musical parody, "Scalpel," at FringeNYC 2003.
Plastic surgeon Damien Bulgari, whom Michael Francis Stromar plays with oily Slavic intensity, has arrived on New York's social scene. Two socialites—Pepper, whom Anne Gaynor imbues to good effect with strident vapidity, and Fritzy, a kind of living Barbie doll (as clad in Michael Piatkowski's over-the-top visions of haute couture) played by Candis Cayne—tout his procedures as nothing short of miraculous. They convince Jacqueline (Laura LeBleu) to use his services, saying a total makeover will shore up her marriage to Emile (a dryly droll Brian Kuchta). LeBleu, a rubber-faced comedienne and singer, induces laughter throughout as the musical's unlikely heroine.
After surgery, Jacqueline has blackouts just as a string of assassinations take place in the city, and as "Scalpel," with enough story for a two-part miniseries, unfolds, Drollinger loses sight of the fact he's writing a musical, and allows book scenes to replace musical numbers. Thankfully, his plotlines include Jacqueline's maid and chauffeur, giving Arley Tapirian and Brandon Olson moments to shine comically and even vocally.
When the characters do sing, this pop musical can truly rock—two duets hilariously skewer New York's elite to an infectious pop beat. Equally impressive is Drollinger's first act finale, a climatic rock anthem. Other numbers, though, sound recycled or just out-of-place, a tap specialty in particular.
Director John Ficarra does not smooth over the awkwardness of Drollinger's book. When it's time for the musical's ultimate conflict between good and evil, however, he almost makes the audience forgive this piece's more barren stretches with the finale, which combines Kabuki traditions and choreography to make it seem, to the audience's glee, as if a Kung Fu movie has come to life on stage.