By Grace Ferolo
Since 2002, The Bachelor/Bachelorette has uncannily tapped into our collective desire for fantasy and romance. The rose, the mark of a perfect first impression; a one-on-one date, a sign of peaked interest; the fantasy suite, code for hooking up. Premiering at the Apollo Theater from January 13th to February 13th, Bachelor: The Unauthorized Parody Musical pokes fun at these tried-and-true tropes we’ve come to know and love (?) for twenty-six seasons (!) straight. Information on the show’s plot and cast can be found here.
Onstage, we see a set designed to resemble Villa de la Vina, the sprawling Santa Monica estate that Bachelor Nation knows as “The Mansion.” The show opens and we’re introduced to our host Jesse Palmer (Jake Elkins), a former Bachelor contestant and recent replacement of originating host, Chris Harrison. Blake Hardin (sound) and Mac Vaughey (lights) immediately show off attention to detail as they produce carbon-copy cues from the show itself.
We meet our Bachelor (Christopher Wayland), never given a name beyond his title, and a veritable harem of women arriving by limo, all but one named “Lauren.” One by one, they introduce themselves to the Bachelor, using common archetypes to separate their personalities from each other. Lauren P. (Cecilia Iole) is our virgin; Lauren T. (Alexandria Neyhart) is our villain; and Jayshia (Nina Jayashankar) is (pointedly) our sole woman of color.
Anna Delaney brings a stand-out performance as Lauren R., a former Miss. Rhode Island winner whose dialogue is often “blah blah blah.” Really, she’s just happy to be there. (Read: she’s drunk.) As the Bachelor gets to know this slew of women on night one, the cast sings a song called “Sob Story” in which they each reveal the worst thing to ever happen to them as a means of achieving intimacy quickly, a staple of the show itself.
Anyone familiar with The Bachelor will know this simplification of personal tragedy isn’t without an agenda. The prize? A long-stemmed red-rose. In The Bachelor-verse, a rose means progression in the competition, but moreso validation, hope, and, above all, personal security. When the Bachelor gives the “first impression” rose to Lauren P. (Iole) they sing, “I want to keep you safe tonight… This rose will keep me safe tonight.”
The personal security the rose invokes is multifaceted. While Lauren P. (the “virgin”) views progression with purely romantic intentions, Lauren T. (the “villain”) views progression in a monetary sense, the extra screen time hopefully resulting in more money, fame, and opportunity.
We see Lauren P. and Lauren T’s somewhat conflicting desires for the same prize come to a head during the “2-on-1 Tango,” an intense, dueling number that takes place within an infamous Bachelor 2-on-1 date. The “2-on-1 Tango” humorously touches on one of the more prevalent feminist critiques of The Bachelor franchise, in that, it duplicitously pits women against each other for the affections of men. Eventually, Lauren P. is proposed to (albeit, a bump along the way) and Lauren T. is eliminated because her at-home boyfriend (played by the hilarious Chelsea Craven) busts in to break up the fun.
Amy Kaufman, writer for the Los Angeles Times grapples with our societal crush on a fairly dated television premise and program in her book Bachelor Nation: Inside the World of America’s Favorite Guilty Pleasure: “I get a lot of ‘How can you watch that? It’s so bad for women.’ But I can’t lie — when I watch two people connect, it makes me feel like I can have this someday. It might not be in a helicopter or on a mountain, but I can certainly have a guy make me feel like I’m worthy of love.”
What’s so fun about Bachelor: The Unauthorized Parody Musical is that the material speaks to a deep understanding of The Bachelor’s faults, but also to the simple belief that love is out there for all of us, no matter how cringe it may get. Hilarious, self-aware, an enormously enjoyable night out.
Bachelor: The Unauthorized Parody Musical runs through February 13th at Apollo Theater, 2550 N Lincoln Ave. Tickets can be purchased at Ticketmaster.com, by calling (773) 935-6100, or by visiting the box office at Apollo Theater.
Bachelor requires proof of full vaccination, I.D. and masking at all performances.
Photos by Timothy M. Schmidt.