by Louise, Community Manager
In an era where so many of the Broadway musicals we see are musical adaptations of movies we’ve all seen, or new stories written to be told through songs we’ve all heard, or revivals of shows we all know with big name stars taking the lead roles, shows that rely purely on their creativity, originality and moxie are few and far between. I cheer on these shows regardless of whether they appeal to me personally, but in the case of Lysistrata Jones my cheering was wholehearted and spirited, the grin never leaving my face for the entire two hours and fifteen minutes.
Written by Douglas Carter Bean (Sister Act, Xanadu) with music and lyrics by Lewis Flinn (The Little Dog Laughed, The Divine Sister) and based loosely on the 411 BC play Lysistrata by Aristophanes, Lysistrata Jones tells the story of a modern-day college student (called Lyssie J by her friends) at Athens University who, frustrated by the basketball team’s 30-year losing streak and total apathy towards even trying to win, convinces her fellow cheerleaders to cease “giving it up” to the players until they win a game. Her well-meaning but somewhat misguided plan predictably leads to turmoil among the students of Athens U, but ultimately leads to important self discovery for everyone.
From the spirited opening number “Right Now,” where Lyssie convinces the basketball team to put at least a minimal amount of effort into their game, to the joyous and catchy finale “Give It Up,” where the company celebrates their individualism and encourages the audience to do the same, the music of Lysistrata Jones is bursting with originality and fun. The show is filled with humor that ranges from super nerdy (e.g. when one character complains that the basketball team is called the Athens Spartans and “those are two totally different city-states!”) to completely up-to-date pop culture (e.g. when Lyssie J asks Siri to help her find a nearby brothel) to downright ridiculous (e.g. when the girls of the cheerleading squad complete a dance number each wearing a comically large chastity belt). And yet, while the humor is pretty much non-stop, the show has a tremendous amount of heart. The song “When She Smiles” in the second act is earnest and lovely even when it is silly, and by the end of the show you know and love every character for their unique and realistic qualities.
Patti Murin, who originated the role of Lysistrata less than two years ago, owns the stage with her performance, embodying the role of an enthusiastic but faltering college student eager to believe in something. Liz Mikel (whom I and probably many others will recognize from her role as the no-nonsense mother of Smash Williams on Friday Night Lights) makes her Broadway debut as Hetaira, part narrator, part Madame who helps the girls execute their plan. These two lead a cast of young, talented, and exuberantly enthusiastic performers brimming with energy and excitement. A particular stand out for me was Lindsay Nicole Chambers, in the role of Robin, the work-study librarian and slam poet who unexpectedly gets pulled into Lyssie’s scheme. Ms. Chambers’ verbal and physical comedy are both spot on, and anytime she was on stage she commanded attention. In my oh-so-humble opinion, she is definitely one to watch.
A little bit SNL, a little bit High School Musical (I mean that in the best possible way), and a little bit something all its own, Lysistrata Jones is a wonderful choice for your next Broadway experience. There is something truly wonderful and heart-warming about a group of young and relatively unknown actors and actresses taking a small production from the Dallas Theater Center and bringing it all the way to Broadway. The show lacks the flash and crazy technical effects and set designs of some other Broadway shows, and the company is comprised of only 12, but all that did was prove to me once again that to make great theater you don’t need a huge budget and a big name, you just need a quality story, catchy music and a cast who loves what they are doing.
Sadly Lysistrata Jones closed on January 8th. We wish the incredibly talented cast and crew all the best!