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Bedbugs!!! ArcLight Theatre (see Off Broadway). Music by Paul Leschen. Book and lyrics by Fred Sauter. Directed by Robert Bartley. With Grace McLean, Chris Hall, Brian Charles Rooney. Running time: 2hrs 15mins. One intermission.
Bedbugs!!!: In brief
Chris Hall, Brian Charles Rooney, Grace McLean and others bug out in Paul Leschen and Fred Sauter's sci-fi rock musical about deadly critters, which first crawled onstage in 2007. Robert Bartley directs.
Bedbugs!!!: Theater review by Adam Feldman
Bedbugs!!! just won’t die. First mounted at the New York Musical Theatre Festival in 2008, then revived in an Off-Off Broadway trial in 2012, Paul Leschen and Fred Sauter’s tenacious critter has now crawled up again for a real Off Broadway run. This engrossingly gross camp-rock musical, which splices DNA from Little Shop of Horrors, The Rocky Horror Show and 1980s light-metal bands, twists B-movie conventions into a pretzel. Carly (McLean) is an exterminator who blames bedbugs for the death of her mother and will stop at nothing to eradicate them from New York, but her mad science winds up creating a race of humanoid superbugs led by Cimex (Hall), who aims to take her as his queen. Can he be stopped? And how does the cheese-loving Quebecois songbird Dionne Salon (Rooney) fit into it all?
Hall’s Cimex is a wonderful mix of incongruous elements—alpha-bug swagger, robot-alien grimace, thundering multi-octave vocals—and Rooney’s drag turn as Dionne combines comic nuance with remarkably strong upper-register singing. Both actors have been with Bedbugs!!! since the start, and their virtuosity reflects that, but the rest of the cast is winsome too (including Nicholas Park as Carly’s sweet gay brother and the go-for-broke Gretchen Wylder in multiple roles). Directed with spirit by Robert Bartley and featuring terrific costumes by Philip Heckman, Bedbugs!!! seems hectic and silly at first, but the story races forward with surprising bursts of heart. If you like musicals that earn their exclamation points, this may be what you’ve been itching for.—Theater review by Adam Feldman
THE BOTTOM LINE Dark comedy and killer vocals help Bedbugs!!! get under your skin.
Follow Adam Feldman on Twitter: @FeldmanAdam