MURRAY — In addition to Hercules being one of my all time favorite Disney movies, I am fascinated by Greek myth. So although the “parody” thing isn’t one of my most favorite means of theatre, I was looking forward to seeing the Desert Star’s current feature Hunk-cules. From the moment we stepped in, we were greeted, sat, and fed with the best of service. The theater is entirely charming and everyone seemed to be having a great time. Then the pianist, Jill Flanagan, came out and had fun getting the crowd warmed up to participate in the show, booing and praising whichever characters, bad or good, were present on stage. She had such high energy, it would have been difficult not to get excited for the show.
As they were setting up the plot line at the beginning of the show, the waiters did their best to quietly deliver food orders but it was quite distracting, and we lost a lot of important plot set up. As far as I gathered, there was the King—an Elvis parody, of course— looking to marry off his daughter, Princess Lisa Marie. He had promised to marry her to Queen Medea’s son who was currently serving a mission (which included the token slew of Mormon culture jokes and a theme of “I hope they call me on a mission” played every time ‘mission’ was mentioned, to which everyone groaned, characters on stage included). Then enters a stranger to the city: Hercules, who also falls in love with the Princess. To keep him busy till Medea’s son returns they have him complete 3 tasks. Madea’s son returns, and Hercules fights to win the Princess, who has unknowingly fallen in love with Hercules. This all with some additional side characters pushing the lovers together and the plot along.
Throughout the plot I was quite surprised at a few things. I wasn’t sure who was telling the story, and why I was hoping that Hercules would win in the end. Besides the goofy grin Hercules (Rick Miller) sported, there wasn’t a back story that made him the Hero. He was just expected, per the title of the show, to be one. That being said, his goofy grin and idiotic nature was endearing to say the least. His nemesis (played by Justin Berry) was quite animated as well, though I was more surprised that he didn’t fall for Hercules himself when they met on stage for the first time. He didn’t seem to care one bit for the Princess, and it would have made one hysterical love triangle.
Another thing that was frustrating was the intensity of other shows also parodied in this one. It was as if the playwrights (Beth Bruner and Norman E. Plate) had a million ideas and instead of fleshing out even half of them, he just threw them all in. There were quite a few times that randomly the actors would sing one line from a song and then move completely on . . . if it fit, why not sing the whole thing? By far, the best number of the evening was a parody of Katy Perry’s “California girls” called “Caledonia girls!” There is a lot to be said of taking the time to flesh out a joke instead of throwing a ton of them out to see if any of them are noticed. Though the constant jokes were mediocre for the most part, the Elvis puns were fantastic. Also, during an onslaught of water jokes at one point in a river, Philo (Jeff Jensen) started singing “Moon River” and I, along with the audience, loved it! It was a well delivered slow moment amidst a fury of jokes, well played and beautifully placed.
The other thing that was trampled on was the comedy rule of three. If a joke is awful, we will allow you to do it three times, and we will courtesy laugh for you if you make us sit through it a couple more times. After that, we are no longer with you. This is the example tonight: Thoula, the maid, gets thrown off stage more than a handful of times and someone kicks the metal bucket off stage and the audience hoped she was okay . . . but after the fourth time . . . we needed it to stop. I found myself hoping she would just stay on stage.
This all being said, here is what Desert Star rocked the house with . . . the talent! There is no question that these actors could sing! I was impressed with every one of their voices (such as in “Caledonia Girls”), and even though I cringed at some of the jokes, I never found myself cringing at any notes. The actors were also very energetic and every moment they were on stage they had our attention. I didn’t have a moment to even think what kind of text messages I might be missing during the performance. Well done! It was also cast well. Hercules had all the ladies around us swooning and the only thing missing was the actual song “I’m too sexy for my Toga.” Between Hercules and the King himself, you will be wildly entertained. The costumes were simple and fun and the other technical elements were solid.
This isn’t the best thing that the Desert Star has presented, but if you are looking for a night of silly laughs, this is for you! Their high energy and clear talents have created a night of laughter for you and your entire family!