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Great American Melodrama unveils hit comedy musical 'The Karaoke Kid' 

In 1984, a little film came out about a lonely boy who had just moved to a new town and had trouble fitting in. He met a beautiful girl, befriended a wise man with a lot of unfinished chores, dressed as a shower for a school dance, beat the bad guys in an epic showdown, and the rest is cinematic history.

Over the past three decades, The Karate Kid has become an iconic film, partly for its uncontaminated and joyful boy-meets-girl, boy-beats-bully tale of an underdog who makes good. But part of its newfound mass appeal is also a celebration of what is the best of what was the worst of the 1980s. Cheesy music, corny dialogue, and clothes with enough taffeta and rhinestones to make Liberace roll his eyes are part of the feverish so-bad-it's-good craze that has given new light to shows and movies like The Karate Kid.

click to enlarge SING, SING A SONG Oceano's Great American Melodrama's new production, The Karaoke Kid, is a mash-up of the best of cheesy 1980s cinema and over-the-top pop music, inspired by the 1984 hit film The Karate Kid. - PHOTO COURTESY OF GREAT AMERICAN MELODRAMA
  • Photo Courtesy Of Great American Melodrama
  • SING, SING A SONG Oceano's Great American Melodrama's new production, The Karaoke Kid, is a mash-up of the best of cheesy 1980s cinema and over-the-top pop music, inspired by the 1984 hit film The Karate Kid.

With The Karaoke Kid, the Great American Melodrama's writer and director, Dan Schultz, has taken all of those things we love to hate (or hate to love) about the gaudy gumption of the era of teen flicks and unleashed them, scored to the biggest hits of the 1980s (and beyond). Imagine a cross between the hit Broadway musical Rock of Ages, Glee, and an ABC Afterschool Special, and you've got the glorious essence of what the Melodrama is going for.

In Schultz's twisted version of the tale, Daniel Mancuso (Mike Fiore) has just moved with his mom from the East Coast to a trailer park in Pismo Beach. When he meets the most beautiful and popular girl in school (Rachel Tietz), he quickly finds out that her ex-boyfriend, Johnny (Geoffrey Eggleston), is a jealous bully.

But instead of throwing punches, kids in Pismo Beach throw down karaoke style (featuring a DJ with a smoke machine who always just happens to be nearby). Along the way to karaoke greatness, Daniel is coached by Mrs. Muskogee (Sierra Wells) and faces challenges from Johnny and The Cobras, re-imagined here as a team of hyper-competitive choir club members who show "NO MERCY" to their opponents.

But it's the many subtle nods to 1980s teen culture in The Karaoke Kid that are the real star of the show. A sad sack character named Pat (Jeffrey Salsbury), who has an unrequited crush on another girl, is a deadpan perfect callback to Jon Cryer's lamentable Ducky in Sixteen Candles. Salsbury also performs double duty as the Cobras' over-the-top choir director trapped in the body of an angsty 1970s gym teacher.

One of the best performances comes courtesy of Toby Tropper, who plays Johnny's sidekick, Tim Brady. Of all the actors at the Melodrama, Tropper knows best how to spin quiet moments or offside comments into comedy gold. Plus, when he launches into his version of "The Real Slim Shady," you will cry your eyes out laughing and cheering.

The best thing about The Karaoke Kid is that it never stops being funny. It's packed with two hours of solid jokes—I found it almost impossible to pinpoint a lull or a place where the comedic timing feels off. It's an impressive feat, no matter how big or small a theater company is. Δ

Sun Arts and Lifestyle Writer Rebecca Rose would like to see Ralph Macchio win an Oscar someday. Contact her at rrose@santamariasun.com.


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