STAGE FRIGHT opens on Broadway with Kylie Swanson (Minnie Driver) starring in THE HAUNTING OF THE OPERA. She's the belle of the ball and both the crowd and critics alike swoon over her performance. Backstage, after the show, she's brutally murdered by a masked assailant, leaving her two young children (Camilla and Buddy) orphans. Luckily for them, Kylie's former lover Roger (Meat Loaf), is more than willing to take them in as his own. Flash forward 10 years, and the tragedy has played havoc on everyone involved. Roger now runs a summer youth theater camp and both Camilla (MacDonald) and Buddy (Smith) live on the premises and work in the camp's kitchen. When the annual play is announced as a Kabuki reimagining of THE HAUNTING OF THE OPERA, Camilla is inspired to take over the lead role her deceased mother made so famous. Roger (on the brink of financial ruin), sees this as a great "hook" to get a highly respected critic to see the performance and hopefully land him back on 42nd Street (once again producing headlining shows). However, someone else (who happens to hate show tunes with a passion) has other plans. Once the curtain rises on opening night, the blood begins to flow.
Admittedly, I'm not much of a fan of musicals, let alone horror musicals. I've made failed attempts to watch (and enjoy) many in the past, LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS (which I adore) really being the only exception to this "rule." So naturally I was a bit trepidacious when sitting down with this "mish-mash" of SCREAM, THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, FRIDAY THE 13TH, and GLEE. But, (and to my considerable surprise) for the most part, STAGE FRIGHT swept me away. Unlike other movie musicals where the song and dance numbers always feel a little "shoe horned"; STAGE FRIGHT'S are funny, short, and actually advance the narrative. Many of the jokes are enjoyably subtle and those that aren't (ya know, the blatantly sophomoric bits- accidentally referring to Kabuki as bukaki), elicit a wry grin. The supporting cast of characters, which range from young preteens to adults, are all pretty uniquely sketched and add a ton of nuance to the story. MacDonald is splendid as Camilla, calling to mind one of my favorite (and criminally underused) young actresses, Jess Weixler. She's asked to budget her time between a wide range of emotional states, and she does so magnificently. Certainly STAGE FRIGHT is by no means perfect. However, it's got a ton of heart, is refreshingly pretension free, and boasts a few wonderful 80's slasher inspired gore "gags." It's also not high art, but it is a hell of a lot of fun. And, incidentally, it's been a good while since I've had this kind of fun. [8/10] ~Conduit [@conduit_speaks] April 17, 2014
Allie MacDonald, Meat Loaf, Douglas Smith