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Party Time, Excellent

Great American Playhouse offers a goofy (and fun) night out with Naomi and Michelle's Excellent Adventure

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They've got it going on up there in Oro Valley. 

It's an excellent adventure brought to us by the very young Great American Playhouse, which is developing a sturdy presence with their brand of goofy comedy, which encourages audiences to participate with not just applause but boos and hisses, if such might be appropriate. 

Creating their own scripts, usually taking as a starting point another story, say, a movie, they put their own wacky but clever spin on it. Then, to enhance its silliness, as well as its entertainment value, the story is accented with song and dance, mostly songs you've heard elsewhere but now utilized in a way to make both the songs and the story even more appealingly goofy.

This formula is pretty hilariously on display in the form of Naomi and Michelle's Excellent Adventure, a newly minted re-envisioning of the 1989 movie, Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure, featuring Keanu Reeves as Ted, a most clueless but charming dude, and his pal Bill, who travel through time via a strangely powerful phone booth, learning way cool history lessons on the way.

Here, it's 1984 and the excellent dudes have been transformed into excellent dude-ettes, Oro Valley High Spartans Michelle (Amanda Valenzuela) and Naomi (Jennifer Ackerley Lawrence), star volleyball players (yes, that's right), who are not going to be able to play in the championship game because they have failing grades in history.  A possibility is presented by their principal (a wonderfully costumed and nerdy Nick Seivert) and rather butch volleyball coach (Amy Dehaven), that if they can pull together a winning history presentation, they will be allowed to play.  Their adversaries, the cheer team of Arianna (Jacinda Rose Swinehart) and Todd (Brian Paradis)—both of whom are outrageously funny as individuals and as a team—vow to stop them.  

But Michelle and Naomi—what excellent luck!—stumble across that time-transporting phone booth, and back they go, experiencing history first hand by landing in various notable moments, featuring the founding fathers, Teddy Roosevelt, FDR, Susan B. Anthony, and Abe Lincoln.  And that's enough to make any ol' high school history project most excellent.

Sean MacArthur penned this script, as he did the preceding show, Quest of the Caveman. This script is much better.  It feels tighter, more focused.  This streamlining allows the show to develop more cleanly, more organically, and, although some of the jokes seem to be a bit forced, the overall effect sends the story along more smoothly, which ultimately makes the humor work better.

The cast is solid in both acting and singing skills, and the song-and-dance numbers, with choreography by Nancy Viola, are winning and sometimes wowing. Music director Mike R. Padilla makes sure that the songs sound terrific, and he accompanies the entire show on piano.  And you get to hear some of the eighties' greatest hits—including "What a Feeling," from Flashdance, Michael Jackson's "Bad," and the Doobie Brothers "Takin' it to the Streets," all performed in contexts you never would have imagined.

As is the custom, after the headlined show the group performs a variety-type themed show.  This time it features a tribute to the songs of the sixties. "The Age of Aquarius," Sonny and Cher's "I Got You Babe" and "California Dreaming," that harmony-rich The Mamas and the Papas hit, all get a good workout.  And there is a straight rendition of "Bridge Over Troubled Water" by the trio of MacArthur, Padilla, and Swinehart which will blow your socks off.

It's silly. It's fun.  And it works really well. In fact, it's excellent, dude.

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