By Byrne Harrison
One of my favorite Mad magazine movie parodies was a musical version of Jaws which featured the shark's first victim singing a spoof of "The Impossible Dream" from "Man of LaMancha." I can still sing the lyrics now, decades later. So I was more than game to see "JAWS: The Musical," currently in production at The Broadway Comedy Club.
According to the program notes, the genesis of the show was this question: "What is the stupidest possible idea for a musical?" While I don't agree that "Jaws" is the stupidest possible idea for a musical (I've seen stupider... much, much stupider), it is an unusual one.
How best to approach the transition of "Jaws" from screen to stage? Well, for Wayne Henry, the bookwriter, composer and lyricist of "JAWS: The Musical" the answer is pretty much toss most of the movie's plot and focus on the love story.
What love story?
Well, the one between the shark and the girlfriend of its first victim, of course.
Clearly, Henry's "JAWS" is meant to be fun and silly, and it succeeds in that respect. The music is well-done, the writing is strong, and the show delivers plenty of laughs. In the end, however, "JAWS" seems a little light (more like a long SNL sketch) and with a running time of less than 40 minutes, I left wishing there had been little more to it.
What makes the show for me is the terrific cast. Laura Daniels and Brett Douglas are excellent as the doomed (well, half-doomed) couple, coming to the beach for fun and frolic. Douglas's turn as Chad's ghost in the latter part of the show is particularly memorable. Jason Salmon, Wayne Henry and Suzanne Stein's take on Brody, Hooper and Quint are fantastic (particularly Stein, who garnered laughs just by walking onstage). But the outstanding performance is John Flynn as Jaws. How do you make a shark funny and sympathetic? Ask Flynn because he nailed it.
Clare Cooper's musical direction is great (and she gets the first laugh of the show). Steven McElroy does a good job with direction, especially given the difficulty of working on the very small stage at The Broadway Comedy Club.
If you're looking for a fun way to spend an hour, "JAWS: The Musical" is just the ticket. Consider it the perfect date night event. Where else are you going to get a touching romantic comedy and grusome shark attacks?
"JAWS: The Musical"
Book, Music & Lyrics by Wayne Henry
Musical Direction by Clare Cooper
Directed by Steven McElroy
The Broadway Comedy Club
318 W. 53rd Street
Saturday, September 15th @ 5:30 pm
Friday, September 21st @ 6:30 pm