So-Bad-It’s-Good Movie, ‘Showgirls,’ Becomes So-Worse-It’s-Better Musical

If you were offended by Seth MacFarlane’s opening number at the Oscars, you won’t want to touch “Showgirls! The Musical!” with a 10-foot stripper pole. The new farce from the creators of the “Saved by the Bell” musical, is so lewd, crude, and fully nude (from the waist up) that it’s, oh, about five minutes before Nomi Malone, newly arrived in Las Vegas to play the slots and try to make it as a dancer, is warned “Be careful – you’ll lose your shirt!” And then it actually happens – when it’s ripped right off of her.

Nomi is played by the fantastic, spastic April Kidwell, who – just like in “Bayside! The Unmusical” – is a dead ringer for Elizabeth Berkley, the actress who played Nomi in the infamously so-bad-it’s-good movie “Showgirls.” Here she takes Ms. Berkley’s spazzy overacting in that movie even further over the top, eating burgers and fries with such mock savagery that her friend Molly (played by Marcus Desion) asks, “Is food new to you?”

Writer-directors Bob and Tobly McSmith (not their birth names: Tobly, 32, works in book publishing and Bob, 33, works in customer service; they say they’re twice-removed cousins) have a lot of fun amplifying the sexual tension that exists between Nomi and Molly, “the black seamstress,” in the movie. After an introductory makeout sesh, the buxom bosom buddies burst into song: “We are best friends now / We probably should have sex / Because that’s what best friends do / When the writers are men.” (Those are one of the few lines from the song, and every other song, that are tame enough to be quoted here. As for photos of the dances choreographed by Jason Wise and Laura Henning, a note on the program forbids them “out of respect for the actors and their boobies.”)


As in the movie, Molly scores Nomi a job at the Cheetah strip club. Cue the musical’s funniest number, in which Nomi disregards an R&B singer’s falsetto entreaty – “Don’t lick that pole, girl” – and forces the horrified crooner to break into a rapid-fire list of all the diseases Nomi may have gotten when she licked the pole in the movie.

“Showgirls! The Musical!” is full of such numbers, in which passing moments of shlock from the film are blown up into song and dance: Nomi’s bratty, overheated explanation that she’s from “different places” becomes a chorus, as does the moment during which Gay Carpenter, the choreographer, tells the chorus girls of “Goddess” to “Thrust it! Thrust it!” (In the musical, the self-described “gay boy who loves to wear turtlenecks,” brilliantly played by Philip McLeod, goes by the name Gay Doubleentrende – “it’s German!”).

Likewise, the moment in which James (a dance instructor who has studied at all the best places in New York, including the Learning Annex) spots Nomi and Molly at a nightclub and observes that “they can dance” also becomes a number (“they can’t dance”) that turns Nomi’s spastic dance-floor moves from the movie into a downright conniption fit.


The songs, featuring the McSmiths on bass and guitar, are good and funny, and the rest of the cast convincingly spoofs characters like the jaded, aging showgirl Cristal Connors (played by Rori Nogee) and the Stardust Casino’s entertainment director (John E. Elliott rocks the Kyle MacLachlan hair). But don’t expect “Showgirls! The Musical!” to be as hilariously inspired as “Bayside! The Unmusical.” Whereas that one took wild liberties with the show it was parodying, this one is fairly faithful to the plot of “Showgirls,” minus the expository dance numbers and the occasional scene in which Nomi has a maniacal tete-a-tete with a hamburger.

Indeed it’s hard to add even more camp to a movie that’s already chock full of lines like “first I get you used to the money, then I make you swallow” and “I was having my period, Al. You didn’t want blood everywhere… did you?” But thankfully “Showgirls! The Musical!” manages to thrust it! in there.

“Showgirls! The Musical!” April 17 to 20, April 24 to 27, and May 1 to 4  at The Kraine Theatre, 85 East Fourth Street (between Bowery and Second Avenue); tickets $18 at