Music by Berton Averre.
Lyrics by Rob Meurer.
Book by Mark Saltzman.
Directed by Danny Herman.
Music Director Linda Madonia.
At the Royal George Theatre, Chicago.
“This is all just big, loud, vulgar, sexy fun,” -Book writer Mark Saltzman.
Ir there is a hell, it would require me to sit through 2 hours, 35 minutes of Helldrivers of Daytona again!
It never fails to amaze me how many theatre artists and producers continue to develop such garbage as the pop rock musical Helldrivers of Daytona. Why anyone would think that contemporary 21st Century musical theatre patrons would enjoy such a sophomoric insulting tripe is amazing and most baffling/ This show has no artistic merit, a cliche-ridden book, a sound-alike score of pop pastiche from the 60’s bubblegum rock era and mostly muddled incomprehensible lyrics.
I wonder who the audience is for this show? Those of us who remember those Connie Francis or Elvis Presely beach films have grown up past those innocent but naively cute shows. Bur even book writer refers to Helldrivers of Daytona as “loud,and vulgar.” Contemporary 20somethings will find the show as stupid – as when an attempted parody fails. Who will not regrest paying $55 – $65 to see this poorly produced show.
The story line is about two drivers in 1965 who compete for the top slot in the Daytona Speedway for the Jackpot 500 auto race. Luck Stubbs (James Nedrud) is a too-dumb to be alive driver who teams with three motorheads – Trey Curtis, Aaron M. Davidson, and Christopher Selefski and his pal Pitstop (Andres Enriquez) to get into the race. He competes with the effete Count Porcini (David Sajewich). The bikini babes – LeahMorrow, Claire Lilley, and Rachel Melius plus the heart-throb Pepper (Samantha Pauly0 and Margaret Ann Olsen (Julia Rose Duray) as Pitstop’s love interest round out the cast.
Helldrivers of Daytona wants to be a spoof of those corny 60’s rock films but its crude sexy references are neither sexy enough , raw enough or funny enough to raise the level of this show from the gutter. If audiences could understand the Broadway pop-rock singing from the boys, who must shout over the much too loud band, maybe more humor would emerge.
But, by far, this shows major flaw is with the girls. They all talk and sing with a silly squeaky high-pitched ‘chipmunk’ sound that is instantly hard to understand rendering the lyrics and much of the humor unintelligible. Few laughs throughout this production. At the intermission, many complained they had trouble understanding the girls. For me the squeaky all-alike voices of the women became irritating. Particularly Samantha Pauly, who has a major role and several songs, squeaked so much I kept homing for Super Titles like at the Lyric opera. Why hurt your show with that irritating vocal style?
At 2 hours, 35 minutes with wacky actions and lame plot twists, I was with many in the opening night audience praying for this horrible show to end. If the producers have any hope to get this show to Broadway or even regional theatre, they must trim the show, make the women NOT squeak and have the guys be also more understandable. That, with a complete refocus, a revised book and some memorable tunes, then maybe it could work. Why not make this show a jukebox musical with those cute bubblegum rock tune like “Where the Boys Are” or those Elvis films from the 60’s?
Date Reviewed: September 12, 2016.
For more info checkout the Helldrivers of Daytona page at theatreinchicago.com.
This show closed after opening night – I can’t remember when that happened before?