Are you ready to go back to the ’90s? As if that’s even a real question.
One of the fastest ways to transport back to that glorious decade of fluffy-topped pens, plaid mini skirts, and huge cell phones might just be to take in a performance of the Off Broadway musical rendition of the beloved 1995 teen flick Clueless.
Written by Amy Heckerling (who also wrote and directed the original movie), the stage show casts Dove Cameron (Disney’s Liv and Maddie, Dumplin’) as Beverly Hills teen idol Cher Horowitz (a role originally made famous by Alicia Silverstone), as she navigates her way through super-wealthy L.A. high school life, offering makeovers to those in need, playing matchmaker to the lonely, and learning a thing or two about herself along the way.
The stage show employs the use of ’90s rock-pop hits to guide the telling of the story in all its glittery, frothy goodness and thereby succeeds in making it an enjoyable night out, if not a highly memorable one. Here are five highlights from the musical that’d make fans of the film totally pause:
1. The Songs
It’s always a treat when a ’90s pop classic comes on the radio and you can sing along and attempt the dance moves while you drive, so imagine the joy of an entire musical compiled of that era’s biggest hits. While Heckerling has rewritten the lyrics so they align with the show’s narrative, the beats and the nostalgia-evoked by their sound are fully intact. The cast karaokes their way through favorites such as Natalie Imbruglia’s “Torn,” which now neatly reflects the state Cher’s designer jacket after her gas-station mugging, Joan Obsorne’s “One Of Us,” altered to alert us to Josh’s musings of how different Cher might be if she wasn’t rich and vain (“What if Cher didn’t have a trust?” fits surprisingly well) and “No Scrubs,” perhaps less imaginatively becomes “No Shrugs” as Cher opts against a sleeveless sweater. Then there was my personal favorite: Aqua’s “Barbie Girl” reimagined with the lyrics, “I’m a Valley Girl in bitchin’ world.” Songs that also feature in the movie, such as “Supermodel” and “Kids In America,” make their welcome way to the stage too. While the numbers are fun, there’s no denying their frivolousness. The reworked lyrics often fit the plot and cadence of the song, but other times they feel forced or irrelevant — like one line about toffee popcorn.
2. The Fashion
Cher’s outfits are a massive part of the appeal of the ’95 romp. Heck, she even has a (huge by today’s standards) computer to help her pick out her O.O.T.D. before school each morning. Thankfully that aspect of the movie is present in the stage show with Cameron changing from mini skirt and jacket set to mini skirt and jacket set, to fancy dress with fluffy jacket and back again every couple of numbers. The stage is even adorned with a huge plaid ribbon (definitely made of non-ribbon materials) draped atop the curtain rail in the exact yellow colors of Cher’s first outfit in the movie — we know you know the one we’re talking about because everyone has dressed up in it for Halloween.
3. The Dancing
There are few ways to improve upon a classic like Clueless, but adding in some choreographed dance sequences might just be the way. The dancing, choreographed by Kelly Devine, is impressively energetic throughout, but none more so than when Justin Mortellit performs a rendition of *NSYNC’s “Bye, Bye, Bye” as a coming out song for his character, Christian.
4. The Dialogue
Again, why try and improve upon a sure thing? For any ’90s baby, quoting lines from Clueless still comes as easy as “As if!,” so what a relief to see that many of those cult-classic lines from the film are included in the stage show. But alongside all the OG throwbacks, Heckerling manages to bring a taste of 2018 to the ’90s-set show, with a dig about the rest of the world loving the USA, activist teens protesting, and adding in the line, “Look what happens when smart kids get involved.”
5. The Actors
Cameron is in pretty much every number performed throughout Clueless The Musical and she more than holds the audience’s attention. Living up to Silverstone’s incarnation of the character is no small feat and Cameron certainly gives it plenty of pep. While sincere enough, at times all that cheerful optimism comes off a little superficial and some of the nuances and internal conflicts of the screen character are lost. Elsewhere, the real stand out is Will Connolly as stoner classmate Travis. Initially impressive for having the exact same voice as the Breckin Meyer does in the movie, Connolly brings surprising depth and heart to an otherwise small part that sits with you for a second after the curtain close.
Clueless The Musical is playing through Jan. 12 at New York’s Pershing Square Signature Center. Tickets and more details are available at the show’s website.
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