Gem! A Truly Outrageous Parody
nytheatre.com review by Josephine Cashman
August 9, 2008
Written by Amanda Allen and directed by David Lee, Gem! is an anorexically veiled parody of Jem and The Holograms, the vintage cartoon of the 1980s. If you are not familiar with the 1980s cartoon, some of the jokes might be a bit over your head. Gem/Generica and her band The Holographs, with the help of the hologram Cinergy, battle to save their childhood orphanage and home from a pesky mortgage payment and the machines of their arch rivals, Spizzaz and The Misfires.
The actors throw themselves enthusiastically into the campy and truly outrageous (and cartoonishly implausible) plot. Amanda Allen does marvelous work as Lindzay Linz, as do Glennis McMurray and Eliza Skinner as Gem and Spizzaz, respectively. Other standouts are Deborah Avila as Asia, Paula Kay as Sharice, and Danielle Pivetta as Moxy.
The show is heavily dependent on the keynote video presentation of Cinergy, played by Jeff Hiller. Cinergy is the narrator and Gem's pseudo-guardian. Cinergy as computer image is a clever touch, but there is so much dialogue between Gem and him that I wished Cinergy could have been a body onstage, instead of a computer program.
The music is vintage '80s, full of synthesizers and drum machines, and the songs both mock and pay homage to the era. It is also pre-recorded, and Gem chirps and Spizzaz sneers as they duet it out to see who will win the prize money and the title of "The Most Awesome Band Ever." I wished that the backup vocals had not also been added on the tracks, as it seemed clear that the Misfires and the Holographs were more than up to the task.
Angela Harner's costumes and Todd Barnes's wigs are so over-the-top, wild, and animated that they are practically characters in their own right. Generica's shoulder pads would make a football player envious and Spizzaz's green hair is almost glows in the dark.
While the fashion is awesomely hip, Gem! relies too heavily on the camp factor, and I wished there was a little more substance to the cotton candy dialogue. Sometimes the actors' derision of the "classic" cartoon interfered with their attempt to be wide-eyed and earnest. On the whole, it makes for a cute show, but not one that is "truly, truly, truly outrageous."