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THEATER REVIEW Flies! The Musical!
by Lauren Emily Whalen

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Playwright: Cindy O'Connor ( music ), Larry Todd Cousineau ( book and lyrics )

At: Pride Films and Plays at The Broadway, Pride Arts Center, 4139 N. Broadway. Tickets: $20-25;; 773-857-0222. Runs through: June 10

Theater kids never change. No matter the era, they'll always be a ragtag bunch radiating earnestness while humming the latest Broadway hit.

In Flies! The Musical!, the song remains the same: The kids of Lovely Valley Magnet High School are on a retreat while rehearsing for an unauthorized version of Lord of the Flies written by their drama teacher/volleyball coach. One's a hardcore vegan. Two are jocks used to pulling rank. At least half are in and out of the closet. The goth girl doesn't even talk, and the bespectacled, nerdy student in the Dear Evan Hansen hoodie is determined to pull them all together. Effortlessly blending slapstick and dark comedy, with some truly catchy songs, this world premiere is catnip for the misunderstood theater kid in us all.

Even those who hated Glee can at least somewhat relate: The drama clique will never be the cool clique. The same is true here, as the cast of Lord of the F- ( for legal reasons they're not allowed to say the full title ) arrives at an abandoned forest preserve for a "research retreat." Trouble starts almost immediately when cheerleader Rhonda's ( Jayla Williams-Craig ) hairstylist mom has a client emergency and abandons them with nothing but a bag full of curling irons instead of snacks. When scenes from the William Golding classic start coming true, Pigtails ( Missy Wise ) encourages everyone to band together, but she's the only one who's read the book. Will the strong survive? How long before human nature takes over? And is the musical-loving park ranger ( Christea Parent ) actually a bear in disguise?

Cindy O'Connor and Larry Todd Cousineau's score and book hilariously mimic musical theater styles of new and old, and the teenage dynamics are so realistic it's almost painful. Director Michael Driscoll boasts an impressive resume, helming several Jeff-nominated and Jeff-recommended productions. In Flies!, Driscoll lets his theater kid freak flag fly, milking every comedic moment for all it's worth. As the teens descend from semi-focused rehearsing into pure insanity, Driscoll keeps the action moving and the laughs coming. Sawyer Smith's choreography pays homage to every awkward grapevine and hand clasp most of the audience was forced to do in high school show choir, and Paul Kim's costumes bring to life scarily accurate teenage stereotypes.

Standouts in this fantastic cast include Wise's sweet-natured and idealistic Pigtails, Parent's tap-dancing park ranger and the riotous "Young'Uns" duo, Ryan Armstrong and Joey Fontanetta. Flies! is an apt choice for Pride Films and Plays, a company with a reputation for polished productions that range from the thought-provoking to the truly absurd. This tribute to teen angst, musical theater and bloodlust is zany fun with enough darkness to make Golding proud.

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