Crazy for Swayze: A Swayzical reviewed by a Swayze expert
The cult-culture obsessives at New Millennium Theatre Company, the group behind late-night shows like The David Bowie Christmas Special 1977 and The Texas Chainsaw Musical, opened their newest show this weekend. Crazy for Swayze: A Swayzical is, as the title suggests, a musical mash-up of all things Patrick Swayze, from Red Dawn to Road House with a heaping helping of Dirty Dancing. We could think of no one better suited to take in this spectacle than certified Swayze expert Brooke Allen. The playwright, whose upcoming productions include The Life and Death of Madam Barker, beginning October 14 at Red Tape Theatre, and The Deer, being mounted by The Ruckus next spring at Collaboraction, has been crazy for Swayze for most of her life. We dispatched Allen to Studio BE Friday night; she filed this report.
At first sight, people might cock their head at Michael Sherwin and say, “I’m not sure how much he really looks like Patrick Swayze.” Those people are fools. Patrick Swayze isn’t a look, he’s a state of mind. To play the Swayz one must have a special mix of charisma and coolness, a certain ga-gung deep within his heart, and…okay fine, an upper body full of rippling muscles never hurt. Michael Sherwin has all this in spades in New Millennium Theatre Company’s production of Crazy For Swayze: A Swayzical. Those of us who are old enough to remember seeing Swayze movies in the theater are probably too old to drag ourselves out to a late-night storefront parody/tribute for the man, but taking a fellow Swayze lover with you and jolting yourself full of sugar at one of the 13 fro-yo places down the street will help.
Communists have invaded Kellerman’s Resort, demanding that the fresh-faced young staff members teach Sasha “Baby” Housemananov (the well cast watermelon-carrying, nose-bandage-wearing Bethanie Louise, who was able to elicit more laughs in her few short lines than most others) how to dance or risk losing their annual Harvest Festival. The young dancers (including the drily funny Ashley Jean Wolfe as Penny) must summon the Ghost (yep) of Patrick Swayze to help them in their quest. Or…something. Not to put anyone in a corner here, but cramming every hit Swayze movie into 56 minutes of slap-dash theatre can unfortunately leave one feeling more winded than “like the wind.”
I can’t say that I had the time of my life. This is a play of highs and lows. While some moments hit the mark, including a time-out for Swayze to tai chi about his problems and the always anticipated Dirty Dancing Lift, others fell awkwardly flat. (It’s probably always “too soon” for a pancreatic cancer joke, guys.) The piece takes a turn from zany antics to sheer chaos as the plot unfolds and unravels before us, never fully deciding what type of tribute it wants to be. Laura Coleman’s script feels like it was on the right path before getting lost in the woods, especially under the uneven direction of Steven Attanasie and Meagan Piccochi. Fortunately when the play starts heading too far over the top, it's Sherwin himself who is wisely able to summon the power of the Swayz to bring it back down. Ga-gung, ga-gung.