Cori Anne Weber in The Craft (Padgett Productions)
The trend of “unauthorized musical parodies” saw its boom about a decade ago, sweeping through the fringe theatre scenes of Los Angeles and New York (and likely everywhere in between) in the early-to-mid-2010s. During that time, it seemed as though every ‘90s movie was being transformed into a 90-minute tongue-in-cheek jukebox musical. Apparently, not every movie got that treatment, though, as The Craft: An Unauthorized Musical Parody only just had its premiere in Las Vegas before Padgett Productions got the rights to mount it in Kansas City.
This production of The Craft: AUMP is, curiously, light on the actual parody. The general tone is extremely playful but the show banks more on nostalgia and meta references than direct satirization, with the cast managing to really capture the spirit of the film’s characters without feeling like outright impressions. (That is at least true for the four main characters, as the supporting cast takes on multiple roles with a sillier approach overall.) The play is clearly designed appeal to millennial and Gen X women who grew up with the movie—potentially at the expense of pretty much every other demographic, but as a member of that target audience, it landed beautifully.
The play, like the 1996 film, follows four teenage girls (Lacy Goettling, Cori Anne Weber, Ashley Young, Jazlyn Epps) dabbling in witchcraft. When Sarah (Goettling) moves to town, their North/South/East/West elemental dynamic is complete and the girls’ power is fully realized—to their delight and then their detriment. The coming-of-age film is a cult classic for a reason, as it’s a genuinely deep exploration of how young girls struggle to recognize and harness their own power, told through a lens of female friendship and spellcraft. The play does not eschew the film’s heavier elements—side plots involving racism and child sexual abuse—though it cannot really bear their weight. As mentioned, the show does not commit to being fully campy parody, but it’s also far from serious, and in these heavier moments (of which there are only a few), it does not seem to know what exactly it means to be. Overall, though, the show is a fun reminiscence of a teen classic, and its most moving moments come from its perfectly placed musical numbers, using hits from mostly the ’80s and ’90s to reflect on the characters’ emotional states.
Written by Troy Heard, with musical arrangements by Brandon Scott Grayson, and directed by Nick Padgett, The Craft: AUMP is currently running at the Westport Bowery—the space in the back of the Westport Flea Market—and the company makes great use of the intimate space. R.J. Parish’s set is a dynamic collection of representative elements. The (stellar) live band is flanked by high school lockers, with a pentagram-adorned catwalk extending down to basically the knees of anyone seated in the front row, with much of the action taking place in and around the audience. The intimacy of the space is not always friendly to the sound, which can get swallowed up, especially when the actors work in their lower registers. But their energy (and the power of nostalgia) makes up for any stumbles.
“The Craft: An Unauthorized Musical Parody,” a production of Padgett Productions, runs through April 29 at The Westport Bowery (817 Westport Road). For more information, visit www.padgettproductionskc.com.