Cast of Above and Beyond the Valley of the Ultra Showgirls
In 1998, DArcy Drollinger created a camp rock musical in San Francisco and took to a local rock club, where it played for a year and became a cult sensation. Now living in New York, DArcy has just revamped the show and brought it to the Pyramid on Avenue A for an open-ended run, presented by Back It Up Productions.
Above and Beyond the Valley of the Ultra Showgirls is a family affair, according to DArcy, who wrote music and lyrics, and also acts in the piece.
Weve got a combo of people from San Francisco and some Ive worked with here, he says. Its pretty informal with people using their own costumes and a real guerilla spirit. Were starting it once a week, and hope to build momentum and build up a following.
It all started right after DArcy closed a previous show in his former hometown.
The press wasnt kind, he recounts, so I decided to do something Id have fun with. I used two movies I loved - Valley of the Dolls and Showgirls. I also had a band, and decided to do the show as something to take to rock clubs. Wed stand up and perform it right there. We took it around and found a home in the Transformation Theater, where it just took off.
The storyline of Above and Beyond involves an all girl rock band-Super Vixen - trying to make it big. When the lead girl is offered a solo career, the band falls apart, and very ridiculous things begin to happen in a soap opera kind of way.
In two weeks, Gewurztraminer (the lead) becomes the #1 singer, wins a Grammy and marries her producer, notes DArcy, and the other girls spiral down to drugs and alcohol. Its all pretty wild. Fantastic outfits, everyone has wine names, two characters are in drag, and theres a great live band behind it, with original songs and one cover from Valley. Weve done the show for so long, its been like work-shopping it, making it very tight and flushing out all the good stuff. Its got all the nuts and bolts of a musical, but with a new twist.
Most challenging for DArcy and crew has been getting a wheelchair on and off the small Pyramid stage.
Doing the show in unconventional spaces hasnt been easy. Rock venues are not really set up for theater, so the actors and audience have to fully say yes to it-in order for the whole thing to be pulled off. So far, weve been very lucky and people have loved it. Its all low tech, and weve even got a 50s sign girl who acts as a Greek chorus. Shes kind of a narrator, the thread that holds everything together. For us, its all about staying alive in the space, even laughing at the mistakes that happen. Thats just as good as making it perfect - maybe better. Its all very fast paced, so its not hard to keep their attention, especially with me in a mini-skirt.
Is there any deeper message DArcy had in mind?
Of course, my first and foremost intention is to entertain, he responds. But there are also little bits of messages here. Its camp, but it does talk about the music industry, and how it seems artists today are interchangeable. But I really wrote this as a send-up of these movies. Im all for pushing music and theater to new limits. This is a musical that a cynic could enjoy. Its one of my looser shows camp - but done lovingly. I try hard to humanize characters, so the comedy comes to life. Im really not mocking anyone. That said, I do play Chablis, the guitar player, and I do sing a rock ballad called, I Screwed the Man Who Broke Up My Band. Its a real show stopper.