This off-Broadway version of the legendary cult flop to end all cult flops received poor reviews and closed quickly, but I imagine this came as no surprise to the creators. This production was technically a revival, but the rewrites it underwent to make it revivable at all are so massive that it almost qualifies as a whole new show, and there is no question that the material has been drastically improved.
The surrealistic staging that proved so disastrous in the original production was replaced by a much more suitable, realistic look that re-established the contrast between the paranormal and the mundane that was always at the center of the story. Molly Ranson and Marin Mazzie are not quite a match for the original production’s fabled pairing of Linzi Hateley and Betty Buckley, but they’re both quite strong, with Mazzie in particular giving a stunning performance.
And with the exception of the overwrought opening number, “In”, most of the really serious clinkers, including the legendary Floppo Number “Out For Blood”, have been excised from the score. The new material used to fill in these cuts, which seems heavily influenced by composer Michael Gore’s score for Fame, is not particularly interesting, basically sounding like generic teen pop, but given what it’s replacing, it definitely constitutes an improvement.
But the glories of the score are all still here…the title-song, “Open Your Heart”, “And Eve Was Weak”, “Evening Prayers”, “Unsuspecting Hearts”, “I Remember How Those Boys Could Dance”, “When There’s No-One”…and praise God, we have them all on a recording now. If the score is still decidedly uneven, its unevenness is now a much less pressing issue, and the fundamental strength of King’s story is finally allowed to shine through.
Still, taking the show from a camp classic with glorious moments into something you could actually take seriously may have made it less marketable, not more…a lot of people who came in to see a hilarious trainwreck probably left disappointed at the tasteful, intimate and actually sort of respectable piece they were actually presented with.
That said, this revival was probably never meant for mainstream success. What it actually set out to do, it did: the show now has a cast album and a licensed version available to local theaters, and with the reputation it has won over the years and the undeniable sublime moments in its score, there is no question that we have not seen the last of this show yet.