It’s hard to believe that the film “Bridesmaids” is already more than six years old, and that many of its stars – including Kristin Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Rose Byrne, Ellie Kemper, Wendi McLendon-Covey, and Melissa McCarthy – have gone on to amass more recognition with other projects.
Nevertheless, as time capsules go, “Bridesmaids” is a comedy that will remain relevant and relatable for future generations. It’s also a terrific inclusion in Rockwell Table & Stage’s Unauthorized Musical Parody Series where it has been lampooned with hysterical intentions to the tune of uproarious laughter and passionate applause. Scheduled to play through September 17th, “The Unauthorized Musical Parody of Bridesmaids” succeeds because of a dynamic cast, its witty and incisive script by Kate Pazakis (who is also Executive Producer), its focused musical direction by Gregory Nabours, and its taut co-direction by Marissa Jaret Winokur (of Broadway’s “Hairspray”) and Christopher Youngsman.
Running at roughly two hours and twenty minutes (including intermission), “Bridesmaids” is generally told from the perspective of the maid of honor, Annie (played by Natalie Lander), whose best friend, Lillian (Molly Stilliens) is getting married. The two are joined by a very colorful, and oftentimes comical, group of bridesmaids (Aynsley Bubbico, Desi Dennis-Dylan, Ashley Argota, and Nohely Quiroz), not to mention the male drama in Annie’s life (Michael Thomas Grant and Nathan Moore), en route to a contemporary and classic song-laden odyssey that makes welcome allusions to “My Best Friend’s Wedding,” and culminates satisfyingly.
As Annie, Natalie Lander is very likable on stage, and manages to be both endearing and funny, with a dulcet voice to boot, even during a rendition of Eminem’s “Lose Yourself.” She’s the girl next door, yet she isn’t so innocent, either, yet we empathize with her from the very beginning when she puts herself in situations with non-committal men, like Ted (played brilliantly by Michael Thomas Grant), who are savagely insensitive. Yet, Lander plays her character with a perseverance that gets Annie through various difficult situations – as amusing or comical as they are – and thus wins our respect.
Molly Stilliens’ Lillian, like Annie, is also sympathetic to a degree, though she becomes the point of contention throughout the show, caught between her longtime confidant, Annie, and her new best friend, Helen (Aynsley Bubbico). Stilliens is always on her game, and surprises by skillfully playing the flute at the conclusion of Taylor Swift’s “Bad Blood” in an ensemble-inclusive squabble that is carried out in an entertainingly melodic fashion between her character, Lillian, and Annie.
Aynsley Bubbico, who portrays the pretentious and oblivious Helen, is a tour de force throughout the production, with a grandiose body language and line delivery that is always one-hundred percent authentic. As a result, Bubbico’s performance is seemingly effortless, as Helen appropriately comes across as risibly awkward with utterances like, “poor people are hilarious,” and with stilted singing performances such as Demi Lovato’s “Skyscraper.” Yet, where Bubbico shines most is during the famous scene when the bridesmaids (excluding her) are ragingly incontinent after a Brazilian lunch. The earnest manner in which Bubbico tries to get Lander’s character to prove that nothing is wrong (e.g., “then why don’t you do a push-up?”) brings out the very best from her cast mates, who try (and succeed) relentlessly to not break character as resoundingly freakish sound effects are going off with gusto. Another thing to watch out and listen for is an all-too suitable Disney song that underscores the bridesmaids’ collectively calamitous bowel movements.
Desi Dennis-Dylan, as the pugilistic Megan, gives another remarkable performance infused with commanding and infectious energy. Dennis-Dylan is compellingly hard-hitting (sometimes literally), but she can also impress with a rousing voice, as in during Rachel Platten’s “Fight Song.” The take-me-as-I-am confidence that Dennis-Dylan brings to her persona also contributes to a memorable scene between her and Air Marshall Jon (Nathan Moore) in which she audaciously pursues her newfound man and sassily channels the essence of Chaka Khan.
Ashley Argota and Nohely Quiroz, who play Becca and Rita, respectively, complement not only the rest of their cast, but each other, especially during an exchange that brings them closer together. Argota, who sings soaringly during numbers like Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on it),” and whose character is obsessed with her husband Kevin, plays Becca with an unsullied purity. Nonetheless, Becca becomes “corrupted” by Quiroz’s spicy persona, who does a purposeful version of “Get the Party Started” by P!nk, and even, at one point, engages in a riotous partner dance with an inflatable Cherry Chapstick.
Needless to say, the men more than do their part to bring immense value to the musical’s predominantly female cast. For instance, Nathan Moore, who not only plays the Air Marshal, is particularly phenomenal as the love-struck Rhodes, an ethical cop, who develops feelings for Annie during a routine traffic stop. Moore is also equipped with a powerful voice, as well as sustained high notes, which are highlighted during Spandau Ballet’s “True” and P!nk’s “Perfect.”
Last, but not least, Michael Thomas Grant is the consummate character actor, transitioning from one role to the next – from the womanizing Ted, to the wedding shopkeeper and flight attendant (both in drag), and as the mumbling priest. Grant is unique in that he offers an extraordinary brand of comedy that borders on the absurd, even while supernaturally maintaining a poker-faced expression throughout the rambunctious proceedings.
Certainly, once again, Rockwell Table & Stage’s creative residents, Kate Pazakis and Gregory Nabours, along with a riveting cast, and inspired co-direction by Marissa Jaret Winokur and Christopher Youngsman, have created another legendary installment in the pantheon of the UMPO Series. “The Unauthorized Musical Parody of Bridesmaids” not only recounts the climactic points of the 2011 film, but adds a refreshing perspective and several more dimensions to cultivate a show that proudly stands on its own.
To purchase tickets to “The Unauthorized Musical Parody of Bridesmaids” at Rockwell Table & Stage in Los Angeles, please visit rockwell-la.com