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'Jersey Shore' goes from MTV to theater stage

'Jersey Shoresical' at the Hayworth Theatre is based on the hit TV show featuring Snooki and the Situation. Joey Buttafuoco's daughter is JWoww.

May 24, 2012|By Jamie Wetherbe, Los Angeles Times
  • Daniel Franzese in a scene from "Jersey Shoresical."
Daniel Franzese in a scene from "Jersey Shoresical." (Nick San Pedro )

After five seasons, the hit reality show"Jersey Shore"has spawned no shortage of spinoffs — towels, tanning oil, even greeting cards featuringNicole "Snooki" Polizzislurring catchphrases. Somehow a transition to the stage seems fitting, if not inevitable.

"Jersey Shoresical: A Frickin' Rock Opera," playing at the Hayworth Theatre in L.A. through June 27, has all the clubbing, tanning and "smushing" ("Jersey Shore"-speak for sex) set to music, with the cast of bronzed "guidos" and "guidettes" from the TV series played by sketch comedy veterans, a Tony Award-winner and a Buttafuoco. (That would be the daughter of Mary Jo and Joey for those who remember the '90s tabloid favorites.)

The co-creator of "Jersey Shoresical," Daniel Franzese, whom you might recognize as Damian from "Mean Girls," said the reality show was prime for musical parody.

"The 'Jersey Shore' itself is so overly dramatic, it lends itself to operatic themes," said Franzese, who also plays Ronnie. "The whole point of musical theater is that emotions run so high you can't go anywhere else but sing — that's level of emotion you see on the 'Jersey Shore.'"

"It's a crazy cartoonish version of the 'Jersey Shore' with all the breaking up and making up and making out," said Jessica Buttafuoco, who makes her professional theater debut as Jennifer "JWoww" Farley. "I was born to play this part: I'm a tacky Italian from Long Island. And I'm a Buttafuoco — my life has been like a reality show."

Co-directed by Drew Droege — a Groundings alum and star of the "I'm Chloe Sevigny" viral videos — the 80-minute musical recounts memorable moments from Seaside Heights with songs that include a gospel-inspired anthem with an unprintable title, the dude-driven "GTL" (gym, tan, laundry) and doo-wop chorus of drunk girls from the boardwalk dubbed the Random Sluts, who serve as the show's narrators. "There are tons of inspirations in there from all different musicals," said Franzese. "And references to 'Rent' and 'Hairspray' and 'Westside Story.'"

Other numbers include Ben D. Goldberg as a hyper-groomedMichael "The Situation" Sorrentinosinging a love song to his own head shot, and a desperate Snooki performing a solo lament that all she wants is a "gorilla juicehead" while eviscerating a pickle over her head.

The pint-sized and perhaps most familiar member of the MTV show's cast is played by Daisy Eagan, who won a Tony at 11 years old for her portrayal of orphan Mary Lennox in "The Secret Garden." "I think if you had told me five years ago that I'd be on stage covered in pickle juice, I would've told you were nuts," she said.

As for her preparation in playing Snooki, Eagan said, "I follow her on Twitter and I've seen the show. But by the time I'm orange and I've got the Snooki wig on, that's pretty much all it takes — she's not Lady Macbeth."

The show is nearly set-less, with the costumes and makeup left to channel "The Shore." Franzese dons an upper-body muscle suit (created by the same folks who designed the Black Eyed Peas robotic outfits and Katy Perry's cupcake bra) and the cast has sprayed-on six-packs and sponged-on tans to re-create that signature, "Jersey Shore" orange glow.

"It is a process — our call time is two hours before the show," said Buttafuoco, whose part was JWoww was reserved for drag queens earlier in the show's run. "I have hair extensions and I'm dark and orange, and there's a horrible, tacky, amazing T-shirt I wear as a dress."

"Shoresical" premiered in Los Angeles last summer and traveled to New York for the 2011 Fringe Festival, where it picked up an award for best ensemble. After its run at the Hayworth Theatre, the musical could again be bound for the East Coast. "There are talks for off-Broadway production later in the year," said Franzese.

Italian Americans have panned "Jersey Shore" for its unflattering stereotypes and use of the G-word, but Franzese, who grew up part of a New York Italian family "in the Guido culture," said he was a fan of the show even before his version came to the stage.

"I was looking for a way to be funny and sing and still be Italian," he said. "I do all of those things often, but I don't get a chance to do them together."

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