By Jori Waldron
It’s always slightly scary going to see original material. Classic musicals offer familiarity; patrons already know some of the songs, are familiar with the material and generally know what to expect.
But taking in a new work can lead to discovery of a diamond in the rough, something unexpected and wonderful. Annoyance Theatre’s The Dead Boy Scout Musical may sound a bit grim, and it does end as one might predict, but along the way it’s a mixture of a kiddie train, enhanced with an educational video, combined with a high speed roller coaster.
This original production directed by Mick Napier, the owner of the Annoyance Theater, focuses on two troops of Boy Scouts on their way to an overnight stay in New Mexico. Of course, it contains a lot of the typical Boy Scout jokes and stereotypes, but it also throws in factual information about the Boy Scouts. Audience members are given pieces of rope and periodically taught how to make different kind of knots. In addition to the Boy Scout lore, the show contains some fabulous songs, each one in a different musical genre.
The other great thing about this show is that the cast includes 11 men wearing Boy Scout uniforms. While that alone might be comedic enough, what these men do is transform into boys (or in some cases troop leaders) with backstories and problems audience members can not only laugh along with, but relate to.
The Annoyance has an extremely small stage, but Napier does a great job of utilizing every inch of it to include big dance numbers and all the men on stage at the same time for the majority of the performance. This show would not be as entertaining as it is without the energy and unique personalities Chris Albano, Jeff Blim, Mantas Dumcius, Tim Heurlin, Thomas Kelly, Max Lipchitz, Jon Matteson, Greg Ott, Bruce Phillips, Craig Rennak and Kellen Terrett.
Despite the small stage, there are several assets that make the Annoyance Theater a great venue. First, there is a bar in the lobby, so you can bring in drinks or even order them in the theater along with small food items. The house is set up with small tables to allow for the drinks and food to be easily enjoyed during the performances. All shows are around 90 minutes with a 10-minute intermission because another show starts every two hours. The theater puts on a variety of performances on their mainstage and their small stage, and they switch them out frequently, so there is always something new to see. Tickets and street parking are reasonably priced.
One warning: this show does contain quite a bit of “adult” language. Nevertheless, it is hilarious in a sometimes dark, sadistic way. This show is a gem, a hidden treasure, so go hunt it out.
“The Dead Boy Scout Musical” plays Saturdays at 8 pm through September 10 at the Annoyance Theater, 851 W Belmont Ave, Chicago. More information and tickets ($20 or $15 for students) are available online here.