“Showgirls: The Musical” brings back Nomi and Cristal’s complicated relationship

Showgirls was the much hyped NC-17 rated blockbuster that never became a blockbuster. The only busting that happened was Elizabeth Berkley‘s career, which slid down the stripper pole into the black hole of Hollywood Dalits after its release. And let’s not forget the busts themselves, the titties, that never ceased to leap across the screen in a dizzying parade of sex scenes — and sex scenes that pass for “dancing” — that are more like epileptic seizures than anything remotely erotic. The screenplay was probably written by a guy who had never spoken to a real woman in his life. What do women do when they hang out with no men around? Why, touch each other, coo, and stare at each longingly of course!

Since its release in 1995, though, Showgirls has risen like a soiled, oily phoenix to become a cult classic for legions of fans who have fallen in love with the overacting, absurd storyline, gratuitous nudity, campy smarminess and general all around ridiculousness. How it existed for 18 years without being lampooned is astonishing. Finally, a pair of NYC screenwriters and directors — Bob and Tobly McSmith — reached up and grabbed the overripe low hanging fruit, and this week Showgirls: The Musical opens at the Kraine Theater.

Showgirls: The Musical skewers the film head on in a crass, un-PC production that will make you piss yourself if you are not careful. (On that note, the women’s restroom is miniscule and is two floors up, so don’t drink any liquids until intermission. For real.) One of the writers, Tobly, is an out lesbian, and the queer eye is apparent throughout the production. One of the first musical numbers is a duet between main character Nomi Malone and BFF Molly that discusses the lesbian subtext in their friendship. “We are best friends now / We should probably have sex / Because that’s what best friends do / When the writers are men,” they conclude.

Elizabeth Berkley doppelgänger April Kidwell is the standout performer, parodying Berkley’s herky-jerky dancing, segue-less outbursts, and overly earnest yet acutely blank acting in the original. Rori Nogee, as Cristal Conners, wears a greasy sexyface that pokes fun at Gina Gershon‘s oozy portrayal of Conners in the film.

Like Tina Fey‘s SNL portrayal of Sarah Palin, where repeating Palin’s words verbatim was comic gold in and of itself, the cast often repeats dialogue from the film word for word, simultaneously performing and making commentary on the abysmally bad screenplay. And there is the infamous pool sex scene, which is just as spastic and over the top as the original. You’ll just have to see it for yourself. It is — special.

I give this musical four out of five g-strings, only because the fifth one fell off during a “dance” number. Showgirls: The Musical opens today at The Kraine Theater on East 4th Street.