Natalie Rine, Contributing Critic - New York City
Move over “Mean Girls,” there’s a new queen bee in town. Nine to be precise, currently gracing the stage at Theater 80 St Marks in the new musical We Are The Tigers.
The latest in an increasing amount of high school-focused contemporary musicals, We Are The Tigers did not come to mess around. In fact, this musical is so fresh and original, you may not be able to hear those other bubblegum Broadway busts the same way anymore. Featuring a cast of ten incredible performers, the plot focuses on nine girls just trying to survive high school. Literally. United by all being on the cheerleading team, a group sleepover takes a turn for the worst when teammates are mysteriously murdered. Whereas the subject matter leaves room for skepticism and guffaws, the show cuts all doubts away in the first few moments where we are welcomed with a witty, snappy book and jaunty music that leaves us laughing and gasping for more at every turn.
The book, music, and lyrics are the perfect trifecta by Preston Max Allen (whose previous credits include Carrie 2: The Rage, an Unauthorized Musical Parody). This explains the careful dance this show does between parody and authenticity, but ultimately its heart and honesty is infectious. Beyond just being catchy and witty, the material shines because—remarkably—unlike other high school-based musicals, this is not a cliché story about delineated lines between the popular and unpopular. Instead, we are presented with authentic teenage girls, each with their own niches and clashing personalities, that are thrown together simply by being at the same school, not driven by some fake omniscient desire for popularity. Each of the actors imbues passion and spunk so real that I could identify their character’s doppelgängers from my own high school experience.
The choreography and inventive staging is as spirited and expressive as these young stars. Katherine Roarty’s choreography manifests such massive teenage emotions as naturalistic, jerky uncertainty to full blown sass and explosions of passion and rage. This cast is unafraid to go back to that place in youth where emotions are uninhibited and daily routines from exam scores to boyfriends to parents are life or death interactions, with the power to brand and mold you in an instant. Thankfully for us, the moments that brand and define this show are in the inventive staging by Michael Bello, combined with Violence Design (my personal favorite design credit) by Matt Franta and Brandon Pugmire. Marrying humor and horror, the macabre moments of the show do not disappoint.
Also deserving of a shout-out is scenic design by Ann Beyersdorfer. The house she has made is deceptively dexterous, letting us peer into both the house itself and the girls’ inner turmoil in smooth transitions, aided by lighting design that is a perfect balance of suspenseful and lighthearted with beautiful practical fixtures mixed together with horror movie strobes and shadows (design by Jamie Roderick). If you get the chance to see this show, it’ll have you screaming for more.
WE ARE THE TIGERS
“We Are The Tigers” stars Cathy Ang, Jenny Rose Baker, Kaitlyn Frank, Louis Giffin, Zoe Jensen, Wonu Ogunfowora, Sydney Parra, Celeste Rose, Mimi Scardulla, and Lauren Zakrin.
The design team includes Ann Beyersdorfer (Scenic Design), Heather Carey (Costume Design), Jamie Roderick (Lighting Design), Josh Liebert (Sound Design), Matt Franta & Brandon Pugmire (Violence Design), Alyssa Tryon (Props Design), Patrick Sulken (Music Supervision & Arrangements), and Katherine Roarty (Choreography).
“We Are The Tigers” runs at Theater 80 St Marks (80 St Marks Place, New York, NY 10003) through Wednesday, April 17, 2019. Tickets for “We Are The Tigers” can be purchased online at https://web.ovationtix.com/trs/pr/1002560, by calling the box office at 866-811-4111, or in person at Theater 80. For more information, please visit http://www.tigersmusical.com. Running time is 2 hours and ten minutes with one intermission.
Photo by Mati Gelman.