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Bedbugs!!! The Musical

Bedbugs Embarrassingly enough, it was personal experience that led me to see Bedbugs!!! The Musical at the New York Musical Theatre Festival. Two years ago, I fell victim to those linen-dwelling vampires in my Brooklyn apartment, and mentally I have never recovered.

The problem with bedbugs is not so much the blistering, itchy warzone on your body. It's the uncertainty, the insomnia, the isolation, the plastic wrapping, the vaccuuming, the self-loathing, the pesticide-induced delirium, and worst of all, the paranoia that never ever goes away.

But looked at another way, bedbugs are a sci-fi 80's rock musical comedy waiting to happen. They emerged out of nowhere after a half-century hiatus having mutated into stronger, pissier creatures. They come out at dawn to suck your blood, they breed in droves, they conquer entire buildings within a few weeks, and they create more anxiety in human beings than airborne carcinogens and nuclear war put together.

Composer Paul Leschen and book writer/lyricist Fred Sauter capitalized brilliantly on the city's latest pox in Bedbugs!!! The Musical. Those who have had or thought they had bedbugs  can especially appreciate the references (the nightmares! the shame!), but everyone can appreciate the solid camped out storyline, the synth-heavy 80's music and stellar cast.

In Bedbugs!!! The Musical, workaholic exterminator Carly (played impeccably by Broadway talent Celina Carvajal) has a personal vendetta against bedbugs; her mother tripped, fell, and died after a surprise attack by bedbugs in the middle of the night. Despite the misgivings of her Rachel Carson-loving sidekick, Burt (Ryan Bogner), Carly designs a severely toxic, FDA-unapproved pesticide in order to annihilate bedbugs for good. Her plan backfires, however, when the pesticide mutates her victims into an army of six-foot tall killers led by Cimex (Christopher Hall), a green mulleted, oversexed combination of David Bowie in Labyrinth and Tim Curry in Rocky Horror.

The show is bedecked with sideplots that could easily dizzy and annoy if the acting and direction (by Samuel Buggeln) had not been so captivating. Broadway vet Brian Charles Rooney (The Threepenny Opera) steals the show as Dionne Salon--a spoof of Celine Dion--who sets out to save the world with her ridiculous French-Canadian music. Stephen Sheffer also shines as Chad, a gay hipster who references his trust fund and fave Williamsburg/Greenpoint joints with hilarious, calculated indifference.

When New York City is hurled into apocalyptic chaos, when the gay subplots multiply out of proportion, and when Carly falls for Cimex thus declaring herself Queen of the Bedbugs, the show threatens to deteriorate into an unwatchable mess--but it never does. Amidst the wreckage, Bedbugs!!! The Musical never loses sight of intelligent, crafted camp, and a few technical sound problems were no match for the uniformly powerful vocalists onstage.

No doubt about it, Bedbugs!!! is NYC-centric, which limits its run to the five borough borders, not to mention that most of New York will not be able to see the show-- the NYMF extension is almost entirely sold out.

But, consider this  my personal campaign to bleed Bedbugs!!! for all that it's worth.

Bedbugs!!! The Musical runs through October 5 at the TBG Theatre in Manhattan, 312 w. 36th Street, 3rd Floor.

For ticket information, visit the NYMF site.

--Halley Bondy, News Reporter, BackStage

Pictured L-R: Ryan Bogner, Celina Carvajal, Christopher Hall

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