By Donald V. Calamia, Encore Michigan
When last we saw the boy band Menllenium, the once-famous recording stars had just reunited after internal squabbles and over-inflated egos had broken them apart. Now they’ve returned as mystery solvers a la Scooby Doo in “Menllenium Saves the World,” which finds them at the Vatican where the murder of a bishop sets off a chain of events that threatens the world. Will these self-absorbed, sexually fixated and not-so-bright heroes save the day? Or will an ancient Mayan prophesy come true?
Go Comedy’s spoof of the boy band phenomenon of the 1990s returns after a popular run in 2011 in an all-new adventure that’s short on logic, mid-sized in laughs, but long on talent. The original comedy with music, written by its cast under the direction of Tommy LeRoy, is also a bit more crude than its predecessor – which some may find impossible to believe. So here’s a hint: If you’re easily offended or loathe the overuse of the infamous “f word,” this show might not be for you. (Other than “Dry Humping,” most of the song lyrics – and titles, I suppose – would require plenty of asterisks to survive the editing process.)
But if you like raw humor and a silly plot delivered by an experienced team of improvisers and actors, you’ll hit the mother lode with “Menllenium Saves the World.” (Based on verbal reactions, the opening night audience made up of mostly 20-somethings to their parents’ age sure seemed to enjoy it!)
Daphne, the gorgeous but virginal head docent to the Vatican, contacts the famous boy band upon the discovery of the grisly murder of Bishop Brinkley. (His feet were missing.) Menllenium swoops in, and with the help of Father Oftlen (who suffers from maniacal Tourette syndrome, which causes him to laugh maniacally at inopportune moments), they set about to solve the mystery. Along the way, however, more murders occur – and the suspect list expands to include the members of the boy band itself!
That’s where the plot unravels a bit, but that and a few other red herrings (such as the size-changing villain) do little to take away from the high octane craziness that fuels the show from start to finish.
Fans of the original production will be delighted to find their favorite characters are consistently portrayed by the original actors: Kevin (Andrew Seiler) is the arrogant sex fiend; Jayson (Micah Caldwell) is the tough guy; Marcus (Tommy Simon) is mostly a dimwit, but with an occasional flash of brilliance; J.D. (Clint Lohman) is the tri-sexual (who will try anything at least once); and manager Sarge (Ryan Parmenter) still has the munchies. (Do you have to ask why?)
Also the same is their overall lack of singing skills – but that works fine in a spoof or a satire. (I’ll assume it’s intentional.) Of the cast, Christa Coulter’s Daphne has the best (and sweetest) voice. And Dan Brittain’s laugh is indeed maniacal.
Line delivery and choreography on opening night was occasionally spotty, but what the show lacks in slickness is made up by the energy and conviction of the players. And the video work by LeRoy adds another layer of fun to the production.
Plus – and believe me on this point if nothing else – the music by composers Parmenter and Ben Mullins WILL stick with you after the show. (There seems to be at least one song in each “Menllenium” show that haunts you for days afterward!)
So yes, “Menllenium Saves the World,” is lewd and crude – and the plot is a bit hole-y. (Bad pun, I know.) But consider this: While ‘N Synch may be prettier to look at and may sing and move much better, the Menlennium boys are far funnier at solving crimes. I just wouldn’t want them investigating MY murder for obvious reasons!
For tickets and showtimes, visit EncoreMichigan.com.
Donald V. Calamia is the editorial director of EncoreMichigan.com, the state’s most comprehensive resource for news and information about Michigan’s professional theaters. He is also the theater editor of Between The Lines, for which he created The Wilde Awards, a “must attend” annual event at Detroit’s Gem Theatre that honors the work produced by the state’s professional theaters. Calamia is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists and the American Theatre Critics Association.