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Hollywood Fringe 2024: Bigfoot! The Musical

The title Bigfoot! The Musical sounds a little silly, like a campy spoof of cryptozoological horror movies. The truth is altogether different. Bigfoot! The Musical is a rousingly hilarious musical-comedy, loaded with great songs and performances. It’s probably the most enjoyably fun production at this year’s Hollywood Fringe Fest.

From the opening song, “Mud Dirt, a Helluva a Town,” the audience knows it’s in for a great time. An inversion of the usual opening show number, it’s a “tribute” to how corrupt and awful the town is, with lyrics like, “We get up at the crack of dawn, depending on what kind of crack we’re on” (sung by the Mayor, no less). That opening note of hilarity is sustained through almost the entirety of the show, as we learn that the citizens (particularly the Mayor, who has absconded with city funds to feed his gambling habit) are eagerly searching for a scapegoat to target instead of trying to solve their real problems.

That scapegoat conveniently immerges in the form of Bigfoot (Lucas Alifano), who in this telling is not a Sasquatch but an eight-year-old with a pituitary gland causing rapid grown and, as he matures to adulthood, a hirsute appearance. In clever piece of time compression, ten years pass while the sympathetic town Doctor explains Bigfoot’s condition, apparently caused by a local nuclear plant built at the town’s request by a troop of travelling carnival workers. The Doctor advises the now 18-year-old Bigfoot to leave home and live in the woods, where he can avoid the mob of angry villagers. The decision is difficult because Bigfoot’s mother, Francine, is chronically ill. Living in the woods works well for a while; during his sojourn, Bigfoot even hooks up with a conspiracy-believing survivalist chick whose too self-sufficient and strong to fear his intimidating appearance. Eventually, however, Bigfoot heads home when his mother takes the most recent of many turns for the worse. Needless to say, he is too big to keep a low profile in town, so his being discovered is pretty much an inevitability…

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A summary probably does little justice to Bigfoot! The Musical, which sells its plot points to the audience with a nod and wink, inviting us to laugh at the deliberate absurdities, like when the Mayor, having discovered proof of Bigfoot’s existence, voices his discovery out loud in a series of questions before winding up by asking, “Am I saying all of this out loud in a series of questions?”

Bigfoot! The Musical also has a certain amount of meta-fun at the expense of storytelling tropes. The script refuses to name Mom’s specific condition (instead calling her a “disease pinata”) because she clearly suffers from the kind of artificial illness guaranteed to keep her alive for a dramatic third-act climax.

Songs and jokes, no matter how good, can only get you so far. Somewhat miraculously, Bigfoot! The Musical manages to get viewers invested in its story, thanks largely to the engaging characterizations. The corrupt Mayor is someone you love to hate. Bigfoot’s survivalist girlfriend would be a villain in any other story; here she makes a perfect companion for the title character. The sympathetic Doctor could have been a mere mouthpiece for exposition, but his deadpan sincerity is consistently amusing. Perennially on the verge of dying but never quite getting there, Mom manages to make terminal illness funny, insisting that she is well even as she is coughing her guts out.

Best of all is Bigfoot himself, who retains his beguiling childhood innocence even after he reaches adulthood. He is ever friendly and always insisting that today is the best day of his life. This may sound cloyingly sweet, but he’s actually rather endearing, and one of the musical’s great achievements is making the relationship between him and his mother feel sincere without resorting to overtly sentimental moments that might undermine the humor. The overly sweet expressions of familial love become part of the comedy, but we believe them anyway.

The cast is equally adept at dropping jokes and carrying tunes. The choral sections feature strong harmonies with nary an off-key note, and the solo voices are just as strong. It’s hard to pick favorites, but Emerson Boatwright kills it as the Mayor. Jeff Scott Carey and Rodnesha Green expertly milk their characters’ running gag, always making it funnier: Every time The Doctor visits Francine, he slaps her apparently dead body, and she always slaps him back, knocking him silly. (Around the third time, she demands to know why he keeps slapping her: “You’re a doctor, not Ike Turner!”)

In a show about Bigfoot, the actor playing the title role shoulders the heaviest burden – in this case, Lucas Alifano. He is off-stage a certain amount of time while his character is hiding in the woods, and for a while the character’s naive simplicity, though charming, verges on being one-note. By the end, Alifano has walked a challenging tightrope, showing a flash of temper and bringing just enough shading to suggest maturity without obliterating his character’s essential innocence.

Somewhere around the two-thirds point, Bigfoot! The Musical flags ever so slightly. It doesn’t go bad, but the jokes and songs start to feel good rather than great; you begin to suspect that the best stuff was front-loaded into the play. Fortunately, things regain their previous height for the conclusion, in which everyone gets what they deserve (though not necessarily what they want).

In the end, we have seen a few other plays at this year’s Hollywood Fringe Fest that were just about as good, Bigfoot! The Musical offers the most pure, unadulterated fun.

Bigfoot! The Musical
4

Rating Scale

1 – Poor
2 – Mediocre
3 – Good
4 – Great
5 – Excellent

Think of how silly this title sounds and much it lowers your expectations; then invert that equation, and you get some idea of how enjoyable Bigfoot! The Musical is. Highly Recommended.

Bigfoot! The Musical completes its run at Hollywood Fringe Festival with a final performance on Saturday, June 29 at 8:30pm on the Broadwater Second Stage, 6320 Santa Monica Boulevard in Los Angeles. Update: the play gets an encore performance on July 28 at 7pm. Get more information here.

Credits: Book by Amber Ruffin and Kevin Sciretta. Lyrics by Amber Ruffin. Music by David Schmoll. Directed by Victor Isaac. Produced by Meghan Allison, Jeff Scot Carey, Emily Clark, Victor Isaac. Choreography by Meghan Allison. Music Director: Emily Clark. Prop Design: Cody Clark, Dana DeRuyck. Artwork by Kevin Wheatley.

Cast: BIGFOOT – Lucas Alifano. FRANCINE – Rodnesha Green. DOCTOR – Jeff Scot Carey. MAYOR – Emerson Boatwright. JOANNE – Shelby Miguel. TOWNIES – Meghan Allison, Cody Clark, Emily Clark, Dana DeRuyck, Vincent Perez.

Steve Biodrowski, Administrator

A graduate of USC film school, Steve Biodrowski has worked as a film critic, journalist, and editor at Movieline, Premiere, Le Cinephage, The Dark Side., Cinefantastique magazine, Fandom.com, and Cinescape Online. He is currently Managing Editor of Cinefantastique Online and owner-operator of Hollywood Gothique.