While BACHELOR: THE UNAUTHORIZED PARODY MUSICAL has no qualms about poking endless fun at all the tired tropes and well-trod dramatic arcs in ABC’s THE BACHELOR, director Tim Drucker’s cast makes the material fresh and milks the parody for all its worth.
Full disclosure: I’ve been a devoted BACHELOR fan since 2015 (almost as long as I’ve been writing theater reviews). Part of the joy in watching the show, though, has always been about mocking it and dissecting its many problematic components. Accordingly, I found Richelle Meiss’s book and lyrics for the BACHELOR musical to be an absolute blast; Meiss understands her source material and her audience. The show is a simultaneous love letter to the addictive nature of THE BACHELOR, while it also skewers every element of the reality TV series. This delicious duality is what makes the musical so enjoyable to watch. That said, I think knowledge of the source material is important for understanding the humor in BACHELOR: THE UNAUTHORIZED PARODY MUSICAL. This show will appeal most to BACHELOR diehards who aren’t afraid to take a critical look at the series (which I think is something in which every viewer should engage).
Composers Sam Johnides and Tony Gonzalez have written a nice pop musical score to accompany Meiss’s pitch-perfect lyrics. The running jokes and lyrical gags in the show are clever, and the music and lyrics work well together to set the tone. Playing off the idea that the lead contestant is usually bland, the Bachelor is simply referred to as “The Bachelor” with no name. Christopher Wayland plays him as generically appealing and endearing but low on personality, such as befits the show’s actual leads. All of the contestants except for one in this BACHELOR are also named Lauren; the only outlier is Jayshia (Nina Jayashankar), who is too smart to be on the show, anyway. With each of the contestants, Meiss delightfully captures the show’s most common tropes. There’s Lauren P. (Cecilia Iole, who plays the role as a total airhead with killer vocals), who is devoted to God and saving herself for love. She and the Bachelor engage in a stellar duet about their first impression, which seems to be based on nothing other than their mutual attraction (quite accurate based on the show). As Lauren T., Alexandria Neyhart nails the mannerisms of a quinntessential BACHELOR villain, and she has the stone-cold villainous smirk down to a tee. She also brings down the house with her solo “The One You Love to Hate.” Neyhart knows that the audience wants to see her character onstage, and she milks the villainy for all its worth. Chelsie Cravens likewise has great comedic timing as Lauren M, the overly emotional contestant. Ann Delaney rounds out the contestants as Lauren R., a former Miss Rhode Island who quite literally has nothing to say (Delaney delivers many of her lines as intentionally incoherent noises).
Of course, a BACHELOR musical would be nothing without a host: Jake Elkins plays the role of Jesse Palmer, the franchise’s newly minted one. Elkins does a great Chris Harrison-imitation, delivering each episode preview with more and more bizarre and dramatic voice overs. The running gag of the show, too, is that the contestants constantly refer to him as Chris Harrison himself, the show’s long-time host who many will know as let go after making insensitive comments in an interview with Rachel Lindsay, the show’s first ever Black lead. The parody musical calls attention to the show’s whitewashing, too, as Jayshia is the only contestant of color.
While this musical parodies its source material, it’s also important to note that the vocals are no joke. The ensemble are fantastic vocalists across the board, and they have voices that fit the pop-oriented score beautifully.
All told, BACHELOR: THE UNAUTHORIZED PARODY MUSICAL is exceedingly clever, legitimately funny, and far wittier than the ABC series itself. This show earns my rose.
BACHELOR: THE UNAUTHORIZED PARODY MUSICAL runs at the Apollo Theater Chicago, 2550 North Lincoln Avenue, through February 13. Tickets are available at Ticketmaster.com.
Originally published on BroadwayWorld.com
Photo Credit: Timothy M. Schmidt