Saucy Jack and the Space Vixens was written, the story goes, for people who felt more at home in bars and discos than they did going to the theater. Its authors set the show in an intergalactic nightclub called Saucy Jack's Cabaret Bar, and wrote the show's audience into the story as the crowd at the club.
I hate bars. And I deplore audience participation. But I liked Nearly Naked Theatre's production of Saucy Jack, even if its script is deeply derivative — a sideways rewrite of The Rocky Horror Show that celebrates classic disco music rather than old sci-fi movies, as did Rocky. But there's an odd sincerity in its borrowed story about a series of murders in a tacky bar and the trio of outer space authorities (busty, latex-wearing "space vixens") who come to investigate. Several of the tunes are catchy; I've been humming "Glitter Boots Saved My Life" for days. The humor is high-camp and ridiculous: A man playing a Space Age cocktail waitress announces, "I wasn't like other little girls!"; an angry lesbian sings, "The devil can suck my Dick Van Dyke!"; the characters all have names like Bunny Lingus and Vulva Savannavich and Hugh Jorgan.
And yet Saucy Jack works, thanks to faultless direction from Damon Dering and the relentless energy of its cast. There's nothing meaningful going on here, but everyone involved is having a blast, and it's catching. Dering has turned a low-concept, tacky dance musical into a real happening. He and his scenic crew have transformed Phoenix Theatre's little theater into a full-on nightclub with cocktail service and a tatty stage that music director Mark 4Man has filled with synthesized dance tunes and around which his wife, Lynzee Paul-4Man, has fashioned some of the most amusing disco routines since Can't Stop the Music.
Robrt L. Pela
Saucy Jack and the Space Vixens continues through September 11 at Phoenix Theatre's Little Theater, 100 E. McDowell Rd. Call 602-254-2151 or visit www.nearlynakedtheatre.org.
The musical numbers would have benefited from some real singing, although Ian Christiansen's big-boy solo on "Tortured Plaything" and his old-timey showtune duet with Lisa Fogel on "Let's Make Magic" were both nice. The rest of the cast settles for swiping scenes with great zeal — particularly Michal Paris Davis as a dyke-y biker named Chesty and Joshua Sherrill as a frustrated cocktail waitress named Booby.
Still, the similarities to Rocky Horror kept tripping me up: The narrator is a stuffy guy with a German accent who's investigating the goings-on at the nightclub and who later goes all sexy — a near-carbon copy of Rocky's Dr. Scott. The villain sings a power ballad about being misunderstood and then is brought to justice with a toy ray gun; a biker with a crew cut turns up, sings about herself, and is murdered. (Meat Loaf, anyone?)
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In the end, I decided not to care. Whether intended as an homage to Rocky (which itself was an homage to stage musicals and old horror movies), or a rip-off of same, Saucy Jack and the Space Vixens is perfectly harmless — and a heck of a lot of fun.