Viva Los Bastarditos!
nytheatre.com review by David Fuller
August 14, 2010
Viva Los Bastarditos!, written, composed, and directed by Jake Oliver, is a fun rock musical that doesn't pretend to have any heavy meaning, though I suspect there is one overriding theme, but more on that below. It is a welcome silly mix of farce, standard musicals, and rock opera that will slap a smile on your face from the get-go and keep it there 'til the final bows.
Set in a mythical area of Massachusetts just west of the very real Quabbin Reservoir, a 40-odd square mile man-made reservoir built in the 1930s to supply water to the Greater Boston area, the story follows what happens when a phony land grab claims most of the land west of the Quabbin for a forgery expert, Pop Johnson (Andrew Schulman), and his front man Don Knotts a/k/a Dancin' Eddie Danson (Scoop Slone). The local folk are at their mercy, especially that of the despicable Knotts, and all are forced to pay stupendous rents or leave town. To the rescue comes the local pop rock band, a celebrated threesome who have successfully cut many albums and who own a large tract of local land. They are called The Pickles and are Sandy Grebzcak (Blake DeLong), Bob White-Brown (Alex Morf) and Snoozy Van der Val Heusen (Mark Emerson). (There's no denying their name, the first musical number is called "We're the Pickles.") The Pickles decide the only way to save the day is to transform themselves into a rockin' band of costumed marauders called Los Bastarditos. (A few songs in, we get "(Who Are We?) We Are Los Bastarditos!") The locals take up the cause declaiming, "Viva Los Bastarditos!" and the battle against Knotts ensues.
The plot is really much more complicated, involving a reservoir ferry boat, its captain and some hot chocolate with VERY hot marshmallows, a gang of owl lovers, love subplots, a puppet, a resurrected and resuscitated President Taft, pimento cheese, and lots more. Somehow, we follow it all, embrace it, and happily enjoy this manic journey. For that the credit has to go to Oliver, who, like MacFarlane of TV's Family Guy, isn't afraid of interrupting a linear plot with some off-the-wall tangential hilarity.
The cast is terrific. DeLong, Morf, and Emerson give us comic gems as the Pickles/Bastarditos, each with clearly defined and hilarious characters. Plus, they make a great pop rock trio, with DeLong taking lead vocals and guitar, Morf on bass, and Emerson in splendid support. Kathy Conolly (Danny) and Gaelen Gilliland (Summer) are perfect love interests with brains, who run the revolution when the trio is sidelined. Dorothy Abrahams (Mom) makes a great pimento cheese-making mother with her own love agenda. Andrew Shulman, Daniel Siford, Dan Truman, and Rachel Simpson are all marvelous in a variety of roles. And the aforementioned Slone brings the house down, or better, gets the audience up, with his microphone-loving rock star scoundrel incardinate Eddie Danson/Don Knotts.
Oliver's score is a pleasing amalgamation of modern music genres, with some love ballads, pop rock, and hard rock coming to the fore as needed. It might seem like it could be a mish-mash, but it works—just the right number happens when it is needed.
Oliver's fine staging, using three moveable doors (an appropriately simple utilitarian design by David Martin) in a true classic farce style, is augmented nicely with Connolly's choreography. Shelly Sabel's lights and Josh Schwartz's costumes also serve the production well.
If you have a penchant for Family Guy and love Rocky Horror, you'll love this show. But I think if you know nothing of these antecedents, you'll have a great time at this musical, which is pure fun. Oh, and you might learn something, especially if you are a Bay Stater (someone from Massachusetts like me): don't take the western half of the state for granted, or some developer might just turn it into Knotts Berry Farm.