How far would you go to secure a date for high school prom? For Madison, Stella, and Grace—three high school seniors who have dreamed of this moment their entire lives—the answer is a resounding: "too far." They're prepared to raise the dead. Literally.
Annie Pulsipher and Alex Petti’s The Trouble with Dead Boyfriends, directed by Stephen M. Eckert at the storied Players Theatre, is everything you'd want from a new musical in the West Village's cultural hub—and then some: clever, campy, and incredibly charming. In a word, it's that rarest of things: an entirely original musical that's practically perfect in every way, and a whole lot of fun besides.
On the eve of their freshman year, three best friends perform a spell (with the aid of a night light and a Ken doll), to summon up their dream boyfriends. Madison wants a cute, simple boy with undying loyalty; Grace wants an old soul in a young body; Stella just wants someone hot. By senior year, with prom approaching, it seems they've all gotten what they wanted. Madison, now a cheerleader likely to be crowned Prom Queen, is dating a football player; Grace, a straight A student and Stanford hopeful, has found an old-fashioned spirit; and Stella, an insecure girl with a taste for the macabre, has a sexy nightly visitor.
There's just one problem. Grace's old soul is a ghost, Stella's sexy visitor is a vampire, and while Madison's football player starts off very much alive, he doesn't stay that way. Under the ruthless pressure of the high school dating scene, and with the big dance fast approaching, the girls must decide if their dream of the perfect prom is really a matter of life and death.
In the vein of shows like Be More Chill and Little Shop of Horrors, The Trouble with Dead Boyfriends is a lighthearted send-up of now-redundant horror tropes, featuring a snappy score with spooky interludes, and songs with titles like "Creature of the Night," "ZomBaby," and the climactic "Time to Exorcise!" There are Twilight puns, ghostly possession dancing, and a DIY necromancy kit. Scene titles are displayed on an overhead projector, and the backdrop is a three-sided curtain of shiny streamers (the decorations from every high school prom ever).
Beneath the goofy dances and vampire rock songs, The Trouble with Dead Boyfriends is about the power of female friendship and the importance of doing whatever it takes to leave a toxic relationship. These weighty themes don't keep the show from soaring along on its crazy fun flight, but they do lend it something its titular boyfriends lack: a strong, beating heart. While that's largely due to a witty script and get-up-and-dance musical numbers, a spectacularly comedic cast helps, as do stunning vocal performances from the main trio. Off-Broadway can be hit or miss, but this one hits as hard as a stake through the heart of a vampire. The Trouble with Dead Boyfriends deserves a long life far beyond the stage of the Players Theatre, and I hope it gets it.
'The Trouble with Dead Boyfriends' runs through July 16 at the Players Theatre (115 MacDougal St). For more info, visit deadboyfriendsmusical.com. For tickets, visit web.ovationtix.com/trs/pr/1138742.