- National Lampoon Presents Full House: The Musical!
- Written by
- Bob McSmith, Tobly McSmith
- Directed by
- Bob McSmith, Tobly McSmith
- Perez Hilton, Seth Blum, John Duff, Amanda Nicholas
You get the musical debut you deserve.
Perez Hilton, the gossip-monger who shot to fame with a scuzzy, puerile celebrity blog, is now starring in a scuzzy, puerile musical parody of the 1990s family sitcom Full House.
The show, fully titled National Lampoon Presents Full House: The Musical!, is currently receiving a tryout at Toronto's Randolph Theatre en route to a New York opening in September. Hilton is its star attraction, playing the roles of foul-mouthed comedian Bob Saget and his TV alter ego, the wise, floppy-haired paterfamilias Danny Tanner. This despite the fact that Hilton – who, under his real name Mario Lavandeira, aspired to be an actor before his blogging career took off – shows no special talent as a mimic.
Then again, actually being able to imitate Saget/Danny would make no difference with this deliberately cruddy show, which embraces its own badness as enthusiastically as the Tanner clan used to engage in cure-all hugs. It's a fetid mess of ugly wigs, tasteless jokes, gross sight gags and grotesque performances. All that, plus fellating puppets. It's almost as if Saget, who in his stand-up routines likes to be dirty for dirty's sake, had written its perverted script.
In fact, it has been written – book, music and lyrics – by Bob and Tobly McSmith, who have had previous off-Broadway success with musical parodies of the movie Showgirls and another nineties sitcom, Saved by the Bell. This time, they're really going for the zeitgeist. Full House, which ran on ABC from 1987 to 1995, happens to be enjoying a surge of nostalgia-fuelled popularity with a recent behind-the-scenes TV movie and a new spinoff (Fuller House) coming to Netflix.
But if, like me, you only remember it as That Show with the Olsen Twins, you may need a refresher. Full House was about widowed Danny, a San Francisco TV host trying to raise his three young daughters with help from his hunky rock-musician brother-in-law Jesse (John Stamos) and his goofy best pal, wannabe comedian Joey (Dave Coulier). The girls were teenage D.J. (Candace Cameron), preteen Stephanie (Jodie Sweetin) and button-cute toddler Michelle – played by the identical twins Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, spelling each other off. In approved American sitcom fashion, some serious issues were addressed (eating disorders, peer pressure, death), morals were dispensed and comic relief was just a laugh-tracked punchline away.
The McSmiths' musical fast-forwards through the entire series in the first act, with a lumpy mashup of some memorable episodes, a string of weak comic numbers and a heavy reliance on familiar lines and catchphrases to tease laughs from the show's fans. The central joke is Danny's God-like ability to solve his daughters' problems with his gentle, piano-accompanied "dad speeches." When he unaccountably loses this power, he decides to unleash his inner self, the dark, deranged Saget.
It could be that this Jekyll-and-Hyde theme speaks to Hilton, who has spent recent years trying to remake his own image from mean-spirited gossip to caring father and citizen. He would have to be a much better actor, however, to make his Danny-to-Saget transformation entertaining. Nonetheless, the second act gains some energy and bite when the sick Saget sensibility comes to the fore, mainly because it allows the rest of the cast to really cut loose.
John Duff as the Elvis-obsessed Jesse/Stamos and Bridget Russell Kennedy as Jesse's power-suited love interest, Rebecca Donaldson (played by Lori Loughlin in the TV show), give the sort of high-voltage performances that almost overcome the crude jokes and lame lyrics. Amanda Nicholas's D.J. finds her groove with a raunchy ditty proclaiming her new-found promiscuity. And Marguerite Halcovage has creepy fun turning attention-starved Stephanie into a twitchy, stringy-haired meth addict (a reference perhaps to Sweetin's own history of substance abuse).
Then there's the even creepier Marshall Louise, who embodies both Olsens under the single name Mary-Kate-and-Ashley and often looks eerily childlike. Her weirdest scene, however – and the show's wittiest parody – finds her portraying the latter-day Olsens as zombie fashionistas.
Seth Blum is the hardest working and least funny actor, taking on not just the Joey/Coulier role but also that of D.J.'s annoying, stinky-footed BFF, Kimmy Gibbler, and the family dog, Comet. His coarse drag turn as Kimmy, in particular, is well-nigh intolerable.
But this is not the kind of material to bring out the best in anyone. There's a woeful lack of inspiration in the McSmiths' writing (they've also directed their shapeless show with the help of choreographer Jason Wise). Even a sequence in a horrific anti-Disney World, spoofing the TV show's sixth-season finale, feels as if it could have been ripped off from Banksy's current Dismaland project in Britain. Then there's the dumb sex scene between Joey's Mr. Woodchuck puppet and Stephanie's Mr. Bear stuffie that makes you yearn for the sophistication of Avenue Q.
If Full House: The Musical! proves another New York hit for the McSmiths, it will have nothing to do with apt parody or smart satire and everything to do with millennials' desires to see their childhood viewing trashed while basking in the waning celebrity of Perez Hilton. For the rest of us, watching this show is the theatrical equivalent of smelling Kimmy Gibbler's shoes.
Full House: The Musical! runs until Sept. 6 at Toronto's Randolph Theatre; fullhousethemusical.com.