‘Showgirls’ Show Celebrates 20th Anniversary With #MeToo Realness
This year’s annual Showgirls production is a response to the alleged real-life sexual misconduct of a Saved by the Bell star. Marking the 20th anniversary of Peaches Christ’s original 1998 Midnight Mass screening of the awful but enduring movie Showgirls, this year’s live musical homage I, Nomi opens Thursday night at the Oasis for a weekend-long run. It may be the most powerful of these Showgirls productions yet.
“It’s an original, unoriginal one-woman musical,” says 2016’s Showgirls! The Musical! star April Kidwell, who describes herself as an “overactor and singer-songwriter from different places.” Kidwell has played Showgirls antihero Nomi Malone at least 100 times onstage, and takes over this year’s Peaches Christ Productions Showgirls while Peaches is off in Provincetown. “Peaches told me to take this character and run with it, and encouraged me to write my own show,” Kidwell tells BrokeAssStuart.com. “I will be your resident Showgirls experience for the summer of 2018.”
I, Nomi is a Showgirls fanfic prequel and sequel with an original musical score. “This is Nomi’s life before and after Showgirls,” she says. “This is her childhood, this is where all the unanswered questions are answered. What happened with the doggie chow? Where did she get the switchblade from? Who are her parents? What different places is she from. It’s a creative, mix of Showgirls and I, Tonya.”
April Kidwell has made a career of reprising the terrible acting of Showgirls star Elizabeth Berkley, and was cast in Berkley’s previous role of Jessie Spano in a 2013 off-Broadway Saved by the Bell musical parody called Bayside: The Musical. It was on that set she endured alleged real-life sexual misconduct and gender discrimination that is woven into this Showgirls production.
“I got started off my experience with sexual assault when I was working on Bayside! The Musical,” Kidwell says. “I was working with the actor Dennis Haskins who plays Mr. Belding in Saved by the Bell.”
“He sexually assaulted me backstage. He grabbed my breast, and I pinched him as hard as I could on his nipple and I screamed ‘That’s not fucking cool.’ I told my creative team, the director and the producer of the show, what happened immediately. This is right before the show started. They came back a couple days later and said, between me and Dennis, they were picking Dennis because he had the bigger name. And that I needed to keep my mouth shut about this or else all of my friends would lose their jobs.”
“I had to leave the show because of this, it was so traumatic,” Kidwell tells us. “They kept on inviting him back, and none of the girls felt safe. They would lock their dressing room door.
“The first piece I wrote in this show, ‘I, Nomi,’ was a piece about that, about Dennis Haskins and my experience with him,” she says. “I used Mr. Belding in this show. I don’t want to give any spoilers away, but if you’re a fan of Saved by the Bell you will not be disappointed.”
“I get to act out those feelings and that traumatic experience in this show. And it’s my catharsis, as a friend put it, my #MeToo moment,” Kidwell tells us.
“I’ve been vocal about this the whole time, and I love and support that group that I work with in New York who did Bayside,” she says. “They’ve since apologized. But I’m not going to keep quiet about it. I’m going to use it in my art and empower myself, now that this is my show.”
“The way that he did it, I have such a strong feeling that he’s done this before. Because he was so cavalier. He’s a predator and not safe to be around women. And I think people should know that.”
But this show turns that pain into a raucous, ridiculous musical satire, custom-made for San Francisco’s cult that turns out every summer for their beloved big Showgirls.
“It’s been nothing but joy and fun to celebrate with hardcore fans,” Kidwell says. “When I go out at events with the community, Showgirls definitely always comes up, whether it’s Showgirls the movie or Showgirls! The Musical! We’re always gabbing about Nomi and the mysterious life of a hooke — dancer! It’s been a dream come true being part of this community.”