The Right Stuff

The "boy band" phenomenon is often reflexively dismissed as being just the most recent flash in a very lame pan. However, there are heretics who argue that boy-band-osity is, rather, a long and hallowed tradition. They would have us travel back through time and space, bypassing 'N Sync, detouring around NKOTB, leaving the Bay City Rollers' feathered hair billowing in our wake, only to land at the feet of the nascent Beatles, those boys of the matching collar-less uniforms, cute-one/brainy-one designations and identical Moe Howard haircuts. Let's face it: Since rock and roll's inception, where there are teenage girls, there are opportunists with dollar signs for eyeballs, ready and willing to let 'em scream. And, of course, the tradition of taking pot shots at boy bands has been around just as long.

In Boy Groove, the satirical play opening at Theater LaB this week, Canadian playwright Chris Craddock nails boy bands, along with several other cultural bugbears, to a variety of comedic crosses. The show boasts a script that director Linda Phenix describes as the funniest thing she's read in years. With some scripts, "you can see the potential, but you need the cast to really bring it to life," she says. "Boy Groove was already hilarious right there on the page. I knew right away that I wanted to direct it."

The fruit of Phenix's labor is an E! True Hollywood Story-style mockumentary following the rise and fall of the titular fictional vocal ensemble. The play is interspersed with production numbers wherein the boys perform spot-on pop-tune parodies written by composer Aaron Macri, replete with hysterically apropos choreography. The cast features Jason Blagec as Lance (the cute one), Aaron Stryk as Andrew (the sensitive one), Doug Thompson as Jon (the bad boy) and Quincy Starnes as Kevin (the quiet one who wages war for control of the group). The four actors all pull multiple duty by also playing the secondary characters, which lends a wild, improv-troupe-style edge to the proceedings.

As the story unfolds, the boys are happily straddling the Total Request Live ladder of success, weathering skirmishes with malevolent Eminem-like rapper Hype-tastic along the way. But soon enough tabloid disaster rears its bank-balance-deflating head when the gently closeted, nonthreatening pretty boy Lance is caught in flagrante delicto in a public park with a pop superstar bearing a striking resemblance to the former lead singer of Wham!

"It's a statement, sure," says playwright Craddock. "Among other things, I wanted to comment on what I see as the ever-narrowing gap between creativity and commercialism. Many so-called artists these days aren't even waiting to be approached by advertisers. They make up songs ahead of time with the full intention that they become jingles, which I find utterly infuriating. So I wanted to sort of skewer that phenomenon, which seems to be getting worse all the time."

Fear not, though: Craddock and Phenix are every bit as interested in providing a side-splitting, high-energy night at the theater as they are in joyously gutting their juicy -- if not particularly sacred -- cows.

KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Scott Faingold