Serial Killer Barbie

by Les Spindle

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Monday November 10, 2014

The Debbies (Katy Jacoby, Marti Maley, Kacey Coppola) harass Barbie (Kelley Dorney)
The Debbies (Katy Jacoby, Marti Maley, Kacey Coppola) harass Barbie (Kelley Dorney)  (Source:Christian Kennedy)

This fall, a string of new musicals that spoof horror films was kicked off with "Scary Musical, The Musical" and "Scream!" Those productions are now joined by "Serial Killer Barbie," featuring a book and lyrics by Colette Freedman, with music and additional lyrics by Nickella Moschetti. Despite its amusing title, "Barbie" is less concerned with sending up the horror genre than offering a boisterous off-the-wall satire of adolescent angst and crass social values.

The creators spin a campy story of social ostracism perpetuated by a clique of snooty girls, progressing from grammar school through high-school graduation, leading to drastic measures by a beleaguered heroine. Though this is billed as a world premiere, a web search refers to past productions in various cities, including a staging at L.A.'s Odyssey Theatre in 2004. This is presumably a revised version of a long-germinating piece.

Director Ronnie Marmo and a talented cast ensure that the zany two-hour romp has no shortage of energy, high spirits and broad humor. A game ensemble cast sends up insecurity and folly amid the younger generation in a contemporary culture dominated by social media and other such influences, where hyperactivity, self-absorption and short attention spans proliferate.

Unfortunately, the book and score sometimes seem mired in their own case of dramaturgic ADHD. The nonstop barrage of boisterous scenes, similar-sounding songs and frantic dances begin to blur, and the shtick overload becomes as dizzying as a marathon Facebook session. The narrative starts feeling superfluous amid the melee.

Following the introduction of a framing device in which a mother, Barbara (Kelley Dorney) relates a story to her precocious six-year-old daughter Parker (Grace Nakane), the action switches to the mother's tale about her journey of self-discovery during her school years. In the first grade, tomboy Barbara/Barbie (Dorney) has the gall to make unforgivable social missteps, such as bringing her lunch to school in a paper bag rather than a trendy lunch pail. Can you imagine?

She is thus quickly snubbed by a clique of spoiled drama queens who have near-identical first names: super-bitchy and narcissistic leader of the pack Debbi (Katy Jacoby), ambitious Debbie (Marti Maley), and airhead Debby (Kacey Coppola). Meanwhile, Barbie develops a rapport with the kindly Bruce (Alex Robert Holmes), who is also a misfit amid the self-entitled youngsters.

Bruce and Barbie pigeonhole their bond as "Astaire to Rogers, Bonnie to Clyde, and Jekyll to Hyde." As their romance has its ups and downs, and the girls continue creating living hell for Barbie, she eventually begins pondering "21 Ways to Kill a Debbie."

There's a wealth of singing and dancing talent in Marmo's large cast, though the sheer volume of musical segments is a bit overwhelming, and the relevance of many of the scenes and songs are questionable. The principal players -- heroine Dorney, hero Holmes, and villains Jacoby, Coppola and Maley -- elicit moments of fun. The supporting players (Cy Creamer, Nicole Fabbri, Jillian Fonacier and Christopher Kelly) also fare well.

Anne Marie Osgood's relentless choreography ranges from athletic to campy. Design credits (Adam Gascoine's set, Christina Robinson and Brad Bentz' lighting, and Susi Campos' costumes) are first-rate.

If this vehicle can be streamlined and better-focused, it might evolve into the killer entertainment it aims to be.

"Serial Killer Barbie" runs through Dec. 21 at the NoHo Arts Center, 11136 Magnolia Blvd., in North Hollywood. For tickets or information, visit