It would have been too much to expect Jerome Sable’s “Stage Fright” to live up to its positively giddy first 15 minutes. But sooner or later, the gore was coming to the fore of this blend of backstage musical, and “Scream 1, 2, 3, 4.” The fun just bleeds out of it.
Opening night for the musical “Haunting of the Opera” is marred when the star (Minnie Driver) is brutally butchered in her dressing room by a killer wearing the “Ghost of the Opera” mask and cowled cape.
But 10 years later, Camilla (Allie MacDonald), the daughter of that murdered star, hasn’t forgotten Mom’s singing credo — “All of life’s a song, so sing with all your heart!” It’s just that standing out at the Center Stage summer camp for the performing arts is going to be tough.
Busloads of singing, primping divas — some of them girls — show up at “the place where we can be ourselves, at least for once a year!”
They sing through the list of nasty nicknames they get from bullies and lament their lot in life — in song.
“I got beaten up a dozen times, just for singing Stephen Sondheim!”
Sam (Ephraim Ellis) croons, “I’m GAY, I’m gay, but not in that way.” He’s just “gay for musicals.”
Ex-producer Roger McCall (Meat Loaf) runs the camp. His only hope for holding off the creditors? Getting the kids to revive that “Haunting” show of long ago, with wunderkind director Artie Getz (Brandon Uranowitz) staging it as a kabuki musical.
Camilla? She knows she could be a star, just like Mom, if she can win the lead role of Sofia. But she’s not even enrolled at Center Stage. She and her twin brother (Douglas Smith) are stuck in the kitchen, cooking for all the Broadway brats.
But Camilla is fated for that role. And as the kids storm through rehearsals, getting ready for their “Limelight” showcase performance, somebody is watching, sharpening his knives and readying his own repeat performance.
The body count is strictly routine, but Sable does his best to keep a “show must go on” camp element in the mix. That side of things — gay jokes, divas tossing tantrums, the lecherous director’s casting couch — is supposed to produce the laughs. But after that promising opening, those laughs are rare.
The cast is bland, the voices far too thin to have any pretensions of Broadway. So that just leaves us with a horror film, an Axl Rose-sound-alike screeching through murders set to a heavy metal beat. “Break a leg!” he cracks. “Nailed it” is the punch line to another murder.
There’s promise here, in the goofy improvisations the cast attempts when the night becomes a fiasco — “The more that goes wrong, the more we need for the show to go on!”
But opening night doesn’t live up to those opening minutes. As horror musicals go, “Stage Fright” is never more than an out-of-town tryout.
(At Screenland Armour.)