Salem!  The Musical

The Warehouse – 1019 7th St. NW

Remaining Performances:

Thursday, July 22, at 10:30 p.m.
Friday, July 23, at 6 p.m.
Saturday, July 24, at 11 p.m.

They say: “Salem! The Musical [is] a campy [and] crass retelling of colonial history.”

Derek’s Take: Whatever you might say about a musical satire on the Salem witch trials, it’s definitely not “too soon.”  This zany retrospective exploits 300 years of change – perhaps even improvement – in man/woman relations and spins an amusing noose of greed and belligerent sexuality mixed with traces of sacrilegious fervor.  Yeah, that’s right – this ain’t no Crucible.  Irreverence is the key here, and the story, cobbled from the collaborative musings of the all-female cast, exposes the “true” history of 1692 in a send-up that captures the very essence of Fringe.

The hyper-sexualized script depicts a Pilgrim community unglued when Abigail Parris (Elise Dubois) teaches a slave to read and reveals her knowledge of mathematics.  These shockers and their implications – my God, girls thinking for themselves! – challenge the supremacy of Salem’s misogynistic kingpin, the sheriff, chief firefighter, wrestling coach, and richest man in town, Dr. Grimes (Kayce Alltop).  Something must be done; Abbie’s, um… witchcraft must be suppressed!

What ensues is a ribald spectacle cross-cut with a few decent songs.  In two highlights, “Man of Means” and, later, “Let’s Make a Deal,” Alltop unleashes her smarmy egotist and showers a raspy disdain on the patsies in his midst.  The players otherwise do their best with music that isn’t particularly memorable beyond a few crackling lyrics, joyously stomping the stage even when the choreography instructs them simply to jog in place.  Some numbers are so short as to render them instantly forgettable (“Happy Happy Wedding” is a notable throw-away), but the first and second act openers (“Welcome to Salem/Reprise”) are relative masterworks of harmony and wit.

Dubois and Allison Black (Tituba, a.k.a “Titty”) excel among the singers, belting out their defiant lyrics clearly and forcefully while their ‘mates scramble gamely to keep up.  Still, the cast’s mismatched talent, voice-wise, is more than redeemed by its solid comic timing and lunatic commitment to revisionist history.  The story, after all, blames Salem’s Hunt more on economic and sexual forces than religious intolerance, perhaps propelled by a close reading of the subject on Wikipedia.  Yet don’t fret – in the final scene, a kangaroo court stacks Abigail on a pyre as tradition mandates, its fuel formed by the props of this messy but entertaining farce.

See it if: You’re intrigued by the witch-hunt abetting properties of “Pee Cake.”

Skip it if: The sight of an actress “animating” a skeleton during a languid song and dance number makes you a little sad.