Alien Queen at Circuit Nightclub: Live review
In space, everyone can hear you sing. So say Scott Bradley and Johnny Stax, aka Scooty & JoJo, the oddball duo behind musical mash-up parodies Carpenters Halloween, Tran: The Atari Musical, Mollywood and now Alien Queen, a retelling of the first two Alien films set to the music of Freddie Mercury. Weaving together one of the creepiest hero/villain couples in history with the glam rock anthems of Freddie Mercury and the puppet-inspired perversions of Scooty and JoJo is a marriage made in heaven —at least partly it turns out.
In Alien Queen, Bradley has married the spectacle of the Alien films with his own campy aesthetic. Recreating (and simultaneously parodying) the technical bravado of Ridley Scott and James Cameron is no easy feat, but we do indeed get an alien baby bursting from the chest of crew member Kane (a sock puppet no less), we get aliens who spew acidic blood and we get one hell of an impressive Alien Queen (played by Bradley). Ingeniously, Newt, the screaming kid from the second film appears here as a puppet and spouts many of the show's best one-liners. Watching these limited budget takes on the franchise unfold was among the show's highlights.
Props to Ryan Lanning who swaps genders for the role of Ripley (or in this case Ridley). In the right wig and underwear (a gratuitous feature from the films as you may recall), he's a hilarious dead ringer for Weaver and has the vocal prowess to burst into song when necessary. Speaking of which, we get vintage Queen in the form of classics like "We are the Champions" and "Another One Bites the Dust," belted out during appropriate sequences. Props to Jyl Fehrenkamp whose dance sequences bring these numbers alive, especially during the show's second act.
But the music here is almost too seamless. Part of the joy in Carpenters Halloween is the way in which the sunny sounds of iconic brother and sister duo Richard and Karen Carpenter are juxtaposed with the slicing and dicing of Bradley's campy cast. The anthemic "We Will Rock You" during a second act fight scene in Alien Queen is, well, just a bit too fitting. Bradley is also constrained by condensing two films with a collective running time of more than four hours, into a 90-minute musical. Thus, at times, Alien Queen feels like we're literally dashing from one scene to the next. This might be the nitpicking of a geeky Aliens fanboy, but my devotion to the franchise I cannot help.
Nevertheless, if you're an Alien fan, a Queen fan or a devotee of Scooty & JoJo's by now familiar brand of gender-bending goodness, this trek into space might be one worth taking.