What do you get when you bring together a holier than thou preacher, an ex-stripper, a small town in the backwoods of America and a reality TV show? Paradise: A Divine Bluegrass Musical Comedy now in its World Premiere at Ruskin Group Theatre in Santa Monica. Full of catchy and hilarious songs, unique characters, an interesting story and an extremely talented cast, Paradise is a refreshing piece of musical theater. Created by Bill Robertson, Tom Sage and Cliff Wagner, this ridiculous romp, is funny, highly entertaining and full of great bluegrass songs.
We start in the small struggling old mining town of Paradise, where Reverend John Cyrus Mountain (Jonathan Root) stumbles in claiming a desire to save the town with a reality show and a mega church. Meeting hesitation by Louanne Knight (Rachel Noll), owner of the town’s general store and descendent of the town’s most influential people, the Reverend works his magic through his trusty sidekick Chastity Jones (Nina Brissey). However, Louanne is not convinced by Chastity’s Jesus loving pole dance and continues to refuse the Reverend’s plan. This brings trouble when the crew from Hollywood arrives and expects to be able to start shooting. What ensues is fun, ridiculous and at times a bit raunchy. Touching upon such subjects as religion, sex, and homosexuality this show is not for everyone. However, if you are fine with these subjects and poking a little fun at them, then you will absolutely love this show.
Though there is not a weak link in this cast, Kristal Lynn Lockyer steals the show, as Cinderella Tiara Applebaum, the town’s “special” citizen who was born in a barn and has fleas. Lockyer is energizing, disgusting and absolutely brilliant, especially with her star turn number “Light a Bag of S***”. You will be appalled and yet you can’t help but applaud the absolute comic genius that she possesses.
I saw this production a few days ago and yet the songs are still stuck in my head and I still laugh thinking about it. If you are a long time reader you know that I am a musical theater junky as well as a snob. I am not a fan of a lot of the new musicals popping up, but this show is an extreme exception. With the subject matter I am not sure how wide of an audience this show will have, but with how big “Book of Mormon” has become, who knows. All I can say, is that now that this production has been extended through May 4th you really have no reason to not go see it. However, because of the sheer enjoyment this show brings and the size of the theater, performances have been selling out. So grab a ticket, get ready for a laugh or a few dozen and head on over to Paradise.
Paradise runs weekends through May 4th at the Ruskin Group Theatre.