I was excited to see Willy Nilly a new satiric musical parody of the Charles Manson family in the style of the protest musical Hair. The script itself is pretty funny and it does a fine job representing the Manson murders. There are many entertaining references (i.e. the Roman Polanski character is Poland Romanski) and it illustrates a far-out crazy time with an emphasis on crazy (i.e. zany, loony, off-your-rocker whackjobs).
I'm going to assume that this show, written by Trav S.D. (who is also in the cast), is in its early development stages. Although it tells a solid, easy to follow story, the ending just sort of peters out and the moment to moment action is frequently unclear. Although the framework is there, Willy Nilly is kind of just a big, silly acid trip, minus the acid.
I'd recommend seeing this show if gratuitous silliness is your thing, and/or if you're really, really wasted. As silliness is not always my thing, I was pretty turned off by the nature of the presentation. Don't get my wrong, I love satire, especially when it's ironic, snarky and smart. But silliness for the sake of itself rubs me the wrong way. And I never felt like Willy Nilly was being funny for its audience. Rather, it just seemed like the cast, having a rocking good time indeed, could've had as much fun in a basement with a karaoke machine.
And unfortunately the silliness was used as a crutch many times throughout the show. Tedious music? Mediocre performances? Inability to sing the high notes in the song? It's ok, look at how silly we are!!! Throw in a dozen or so STD references and the smart humor gets overshadowed.
If the production can hone in on what this show's about and lift the quirky spoof from its haze of
uninspired (and mostly unfunny) humor, there's probably a really good show waiting. Hell, the premise alone is prime for mockery and the story stands on its own, even more so since the audience knows it's non-fiction.
(Willy Nilly plays at Dixon Place, 161A Christie Street between Rivington and Delancy. Performances are Friday, 8/21 at 5pm, Sunday 8/23 at 2:45pm and Friday 8/28 at 7pm. Tickets are $15. To purchase tickets and for show info visit pipermckenzie.com and for FringeNYC info visit fringenyc.org.)