REVIEW: ‘Stranger Sings! The Parody Musical’
Barb is star of the show in spoof of Netflix’s beloved ‘80s show
We caught Stranger Sings! The Parody Musical, a stage production, at Playhouse 46 in Manhattan May 6. We are happy to review the off-Broadway show, which was a lot of fun, but must unfortunately note that Stranger Sings! closed as of May 7.
Based, of course, on the Netflix smash Stranger Things, the Stranger Sings! set looks like Mike’s basement in the show, with board games on the shelves and Dungeons and Dragons figurines on a table in the middle. Attendees sit in four sections that encircle … ensquare? … the stage. Four people in the front row got bean-bag chairs to match the ‘80s theme. We had maybe 120 people in the theater the night we went.
Eighties music — ”Beat It”, “Sunglasses at Night”, “Rock You Like a Hurricane” — plays before the show begins.
Stranger Sings! takes small elements of the Netflix series and blows them out into bigger, funnier things, such as the age differential between pals Dustin and Steve, and Barb departing the show early in its run.
Barb, Nancy’s nerdy best friend, is the star of Stranger Sings!, as if the producers are winking at the Stranger Things fans who felt her story — disappearing off the diving board of Steve’s pool as Steve and Nancy “study” upstairs, never to be seen again — got short shrift. Bold and brassy in the stage show, Barb ends up in an amorous tangle with the dreaded demogorgon.
One Barb song goes:
Somebody's gonna remember Barb
Yes, someone's gonna bring justice for Barb
Now, I won't be ignored, soon I'll be adored
When the internet comes around
Stranger Sings!, as the name indicates, is full of humorous songs that parody the series. Eleven sings of the father she desires, not Papa from the lab, who she said tries to drown her in a tank, and has her collude with the Russians. Joyce, played by Winona Ryder in the series, slips into Winona mode at one point, with dancers representing Edward Scissorhands, Beetlejuice and other Ryder movies taking the stage as Joyce sings from the star actress’s perspective.
There are numerous mentions of New Coke, and a running gag is police chief Hopper attempting, time and again, to bring up his deceased daughter, but he’s repeatedly cut off as everyone is focused on finding Will.
The fourth wall came down a few times at the show we went to. Barb, played by an actress named Slee, quipped about the struggles of a working actor and Joyce, played by Caroline Huerta, saluted her beaming mother in the audience.
The cast is first-rate. Nicolas Hermick plays Mike, Jeremiah Garcia is Dustin, Jamir Brown is Lucas, Nickolaus Colon is Hopper, Harley Seger is Nancy and Eleven, and Kyle Mangold is Steve and Jonathan. Besides playing Joyce, Huerta provides the hand inside the puppet that represents Will, and his voice as well.
Indeed, Will is portrayed by a puppet, not a human. I’m not exactly sure why; maybe because the show is zany to the core, and puppets only add to the zaniness, or maybe the creators are making a statement about how Will doesn’t have all that large a role, at least compared to his best buds Mike, Lucas and Dustin.
Will, Mike, Lucas and Dustin of course get around Hawkins on bicycles in the series, and the Stranger Sings! actors use bike handlebars, held in front of them, to simulate cycling. It worked just fine.
The stage show is for Stranger Things superfans. The songs are offbeat, with clever lyrics that find humor in things you may not have thought to look for humor in. We thoroughly enjoyed it.
Jonathan Hogue created the show and Nick Flatto directed. Where Stranger Sings! ends up next is not known as presstime. In the meantime, there are plenty of videos on YouTube and other platforms. Those, and the first four seasons of Stranger Things on Netflix, will have to hold the superfans over until the next season of the series eventually comes out.
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Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.