Photo from baysidethemusical.com
As a fan of Saved By the Bell growing up, I can easily remember my mother rolling her eyes every time the audience “woooo-ed” at the palpable, albeit G-rated, sexual tension between characters, or when yet another of Zack’s harebrained schemes failed to come to fruition. My eight-to-twelve-year-old self couldn’t understand how anyone could possibly think this was a stupid show. It undoubtedly represented the way high school would be when I got there: Brightly colored lockers, fashion trends for days, and nary a classroom in sight. Well, maybe one. But that’s it.
Clearly Bob and Tobly McSmith, the writers and directors of Bayside! The Musical, are cut from the same cloth I am: obvious onetime fans of the show who now view it as comedic fodder. The musical parody showcases what the children’s show might look like if it had aired after dark instead of on Saturday mornings. The results are hilarious and often spot-on.
Fans of the show who are now in their twenties and thirties won’t be disappointed by the parody’s propensity to poke fun at tired sitcom cliches, like dream sequences, to-be-continued cliffhangers, and get-rich-quick schemes. It also satirizes some of SBTB‘s most iconic episodes; Jessie’s caffeine “addiction” is a running gag (don’t sit in the first two rows unless you want to get sprayed with pills) and the “Miss Bayside” scene is inspired, especially Jessie’s interpretive dance. In fact, April Kidwell pretty much steals the show as Jessie Spano. Other layers to the archetypal characters are presented; turns out Lisa Turtle is none too pleased at being the token black kid, after all. Oh, and Slater’s gay. Are you that surprised?
Also impressive is the show’s remarkable attention to detail. The costumes appear as though they were ripped straight from a Janet Jackson music video. Lisa’s hats and Slater’s jeans are priceless. All the actors no doubt spent painstaking hours watching reruns of the show in order to get the original cast’s mannerisms and voice intonations down pat.
At just over two hours, the show runs a tad long and does wear a bit thin. But tickets are affordable at only $25, which leaves you plenty of drinking money, and there just happens to be an adorable quaint bar attached that serves up some nice cocktails and inexpensive crepes. If you’re purchasing tickets, keep an eye out on the website, as former SBTB cast members make appearances. Some of the biggest laughs erupted when Dustin Diamond, the original Screech, came onstage for sporadic cameos. “Why don’t you just hold a dance?” he suggested as the stymied sextet struggled to come up with a way to make money to save the Max. “We had like a fucking million of them.”
For a lighthearted night out, “Bayside! The Musical” is definitely a good place to start. The show plays on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at Theatre 80 (80 St. Mark’s Place, at 1st Avenue).
Bayside! The Musical!
Every Thursday-Saturday at 8pm
Price: $25 (Chance for FREE Tickets on their site)
80 St. Mark’s Place
[Lower East Side]