And sometimes they grow to be six feet tall.
Well, in Carly’s world they do.
In BEDBUGS!! The Musical, playing at ATA’s Chernuchin Theatre, nothing can break Carly, the exterminator’s, motivation to eradicate the pests from existence. Carly, played by petite yet musical powerhouse Marissa Rosen, fanatically and fervently works to create a formula to take revenge on the bugs that were the cause of her mother’s bizarre death. As a result, she inadvertently mutates the bedbugs. They kill, wear flamboyant bed bug attire, are six feet tall and rock out loud.
Chris Hall plays Cimex, leader and the all mighty king of mutant bedbugs. Hall’s presence in the show alone makes the campy musical worth seeing. Hall sashays across the stage in brown glitter and sequins with a knowing royal swagger reminiscent of Tim Curry’s “Sweet Transvestite” in Rocky Horror Picture Show.
Carly eventually falls for Cimex and makes her his queen. Together, they and all the other bugs work to take over New York City, much to Carly’s assistant, Burt’s dismay.
In a strangely integrated but charming subplot, has-been Dionne Salon, the French Canadian pop star a young Carly idolized, works on a comeback tour amid the engulfing city craziness. She simultaneously fights with her domineering manager/husband Dexter. Brian Charles Rooney in his gender bending role as Salon shows off his lovely singing voice and statuesque presence in several solos. However, the Salon subplot did feel out of place at times alongside the main plot of Carly and Cimux.
The musical score of BEDBUGS!! creates catchy and memorable songs heavily inspired by 1980’s glam rock and 1990’s pop power ballads. The conducted band in the top right hand corner of the theatre is loud and feels like a rock and pop concert mixed into one. One of the band’s musicians even delivers a sick guitar solo midway through the show during one of the musical numbers.
Salon needs to prepare for her impending comeback at Madison Square Garden. Carly ultimately must decide whether Cimux and his clan of mutant bugs are ones to love or ones to kill.
The only semi drawbacks to the musical are that it runs a bit long – just over two hours with a ten minute intermission. The various subplots definitely don’t hurt the musical but feel ill-fitting at times. Overall, BEDBUGS!! is full of extremely talented actors, singers and musicians.
Even with such an icky topic, the triple threat of sassy Cimux, competent Carly and diva Dionne Salon still make your skin crawl with joy.