Struggles with creativity, aging in a youth-oriented society, and the fleeting nature of fame are the underlying serious themes of A Commercial Jingle for Regina Comet, the first new musical to premiere in NYC following the eighteen-month pandemic closure, in a strictly limited engagement at Off-Broadway’s DR2 Theatre. But they’re delivered by a first-rate team of Broadway alums with perfect comedic timing and a laugh-out-loud Millennial perspective in 80 rapid-fire minutes of razor-sharp wit and non-stop hilarity that shine a laser on the absurdities of chasing that elusive dream of stardom. Self-described as “whip-smart and stupid funny,” the highly entertaining three-hander is not only a welcome example of truth in advertising but also a perfect showcase for the outstanding talents of its cast and creators.
Alex Wyse (Waitress; Spring Awakening) and Ben Fankhauser (Newsies), who wrote the book, music, and lyrics, turn in stellar performances as an unnamed pair of commercial jingle writers who aspire to creating “One Hit Song” that will skyrocket them from anonymity to fame. The opportunity arises, sort of, when “world-renowned pop vocalist Regina Comet” – played by the fabulous Bryonha Marie Parham (Prince of Broadway; Book of Mormon) – calls on them to create the 30-second titular tune for her new fragrance “Relevance” (don’t miss the mock ad for it in the show’s Playbill program), which she hopes will reignite her fading career and bring her renewed, you know, relevance to a new younger audience. Unfortunately, it also causes a rift in the writers’ close-knit partnership.
Directed by Marshall Pailet (Who’s Your Baghdaddy?) with an eye on the fast-paced humor, the show is filled with spirited references to pop culture and Jewish culture, cell phones and social media, in sidesplitting one-liners and sight gags that kept me howling with laughter (the come-to-life phone call, in which Regina freezes, is one of the countless examples of the keen post-modern comedy of this very relatable show). Along with the jokes, the terrific cast delivers 20 original melodious songs with powerhouse vocals, tight harmonies, and uproarious parodic choreography by Stephanie Klemons (In the Heights; Hamilton). The actors are backed on stage by a top-notch three-piece band, with Sherisse Rogers on bass, Rosa Avila on drums, and the irresistibly reactive music director Alex Goldie Golden on keyboards.
The clever set design by Wilson Chin, sparkling lighting by Aja M. Jackson, personality-appropriate costumes by Sarita Fellows, and spot-on sound by Twi McCallum enhance the engaging script, songs, and performances and the fantastic uplifting ending that we all need about now. If you’re in the mood for a fun-filled night with some of the most impressive artists in NYC theater, don’t miss it. In the words of Wyse’s character, it’s so, um, (pause, blank look) “. . . good.”
Running Time: Approximately 80 minutes, without intermission.
A Commercial Jingle for Regina Comet plays through Sunday, November 14, 2021, at the DR2 Theatre, 103 E. 15th Street, NYC. For tickets, starting at $55, visit the box office (Tuesday-Sunday, noon- curtain time), call (800) 447-7400, or go online. All audience members are required to show proof of full vaccination and to wear a properly fitting mask at all times when in the theater. Those with a medical condition, closely held religious belief, or children under 12 who are unable to get vaccinated must show proof of a negative test within 72 hours of attendance.