Is it about two years too late to be making fun of the film “Titanic”? You’d think so, wouldn’t you?
But Murray’s Desert Star Playhouse, home of parodies, melodrama and general mayhem in regards to all things pop cultural, has surprised us again with “The Titanic,” a madcap laugh-fest so funny that it has made me break my personal pledge never to use the phrase “madcap laugh-fest.”
The show tells us specifically that it plans to make fun of the billion-dollar movie, and it certainly does. The Kate Winslet character is still called Rose (played by Chelsea Adams), and her weaselly fiance is still Cal (Paul Thomas Murphy) — but the man who comes between them is not Jack Dawson, but Leonardo DeCraprio (Nathan Stevens, who is a dead ringer for Leo).
Tossed into the mix is the unsinkable Molly Brown (Kori Hazel, also choreographer), who flirts with the ship’s Skipper (Scott Holman, also writer and director), who appears to be a pirate. There’s also the cruise director, Julie McCoy (Julie Ann Christensen), and, inexplicably, Gilligan (Jonathon Phipps), who seems bent on purposely screwing things up.
In order to make the “Titanic” plot fit the standard DSP heroes-and-villains format, Cal is made even more evil than in the film: Here, he MAKES the ship hit the iceberg in order to pretend to lose his huge diamond and collect the insurance money. Once he learns of Rose’s dalliance with Leonardo, he decides to let them both go down with the ship.
The jokes fly fast and furious, and the ratio of good ones to bad ones is astoundingly solid. For every lame pot-shot like “The ship is going down faster than Orrin Hatch’s presidential campaign,” there are a dozen great ones like Cal’s “Pardon my French, but have you seen my fiancee?,” and Molly Brown’s flirtatious reply when Skipper says he has a sextant (“What kind of tent?”).
The entire ensemble is as strong as anything we’ve seen recently, with Holman and Murphy taking the lead, as usual. Holman’s dry delivery, in which every gag seems like an afterthought, makes him even funnier, simply because his performance looks effortless. (Not trying to be funny = being funny.) Meanwhile, Murphy’s hysterically over-the-top Cal fairly crackles with insane energy.
All the parts are played with gusto, in fact, with no one mugging for the audience or begging for laughs — which, again, makes the whole thing twice as funny. “Titanic” needed a good parody, and this just might be the definitive one. Even if it is two years late.
The Desert Star Playhouse has no bigger supporter than me, and this show was a perfect example of why that is. When they're at their best, the folks at DSP are powerfully funny, pointedly satiric, and they bonk their heads on stuff a lot. What more could you want?
A momentous occasion was our visit to this show, as it marked the first time we were invited backstage to meet the cast.
As much as it shouldn't have been, this was a huge thrill for us ("us" being me, Chris & Lisa Clark, and our pal Joel Wallin). This was our 19th show at the DSP, after all, and we'd come to know and love so many of the performers who pop up time after time in the shows. Scott Holman, writer/director/performer of this show, e-mailed me the day we were coming to the show, and he wound up inviting us backstage. (OK, I guess technically I asked if we could, and he said yes.)
So we met everyone, and stayed around chatting with Scott, Paul and Steven for several minutes. We shared some of our favorite DSP moments, and we learned some interesting and provocative behind-the-scenes stories, too, which I shan't reveal here for they are truly interesting and provocative.
An ulterior motive in our coming backstage was so that Scott could introduce me to Julie Ann Christensen, who readers of this Web site will know that I am madly in love with. Apparently he and Paul, both occasional perusers of the site, have told her that I have a crush on her, but she has not believed them. I was introduced to her, and then she bolted out the door like there was a poison gas leak, knocking over tables and pushing down old ladies as she went.
OK, perhaps I exaggerate her exit. And perhaps it was later explained to me that she had someplace else she had to be and could not stay around fraternizing with the theater critic and his friends. Nonetheless, the image of her fleeing in terror the instant I said "hello" will forever be frozen upon the landscape of my memory.
A couple weeks into the run of this show, Nathan Stevens broke his contract in order to do a movie for Feature Films for Families, that bastion of mediocrity that has plagued Utah for many years without doing anything worthwhile. Director Scott Holman e-mailed me and asked if I knew any actors who could play the part. I recommended my good friend Randy Tayler, since he was the smallest person I knew who didn't have other commitments. Randy took the part and ran with it.
Truth be told, Nathan Stevens never really fit in with the dignity-free proceedings at the Desert Star. He seemed too self-conscious, like he was too cool to be acting like a boob. Randy has no such qualms.