I know what you’re thinking. There’s a Clueless musical? As, if!
But there is… and Friday evening my friend Sarah and I headed on over to check it out. We first learned about it when we saw Puffs (the unofficial Harry Potter-based show which focuses on the life of the members of Hufflepuff House). In the program a little ad for Clueless caught my eye, and by the time the show ended, we had tickets in hand!
The evening began with dinner. One of my favorite things to do when planning an evening out is play “choose the restaurant.” Sometimes this means going somewhere tried and true, but other times I search the surrounding area and assess menus like I’m creating a plan for world peace. For this particular evening’s festivities, I chose The Polynesian, a bar with food just down the block from the theater. I am a sucker for fancily-named cocktails.
For dinner we had the Polynesian pu pu platter, which included a lot of different items from their menu and came as a large tower. What’s not to like? It was bonus that all the food was really good.
After dinner, the evening’s excursion took us on a quick walk to Shmackary’s to get cookies, and then off to Clueless!
A little background: I LOVED CLUELESS the movie when it first opened back in 1995. Like, a lot. It came out when I was fourteen, and it was my favorite thing ever. For this nineties adolescent (seriously, I turned nine in 1990 and 18 in 1999), Clueless was the defining movie of my teen years, though my actual teen years resembled it in no way whatsoever, other than the fact that I wanted Cher’s hair and clothes more than anything. For me, the movie has also stood the test of time, and I still love watching it, though I don’t do so as much as I used to. And if I’m being honest, I still want Cher’s hair (her wardrobe might be a little dated for me at this point!). So even though I knew going in that it couldn’t possibly top a beloved movie from my youth, I was super excited going in.
Because the show was written by Amy Heckerling (the original writer), all the memorable lines and scenes from the original script were there. A few changes were made here and there to work better for the stage, but for the most part it was the same story with the same cast of characters. And while it was not quite as charming as the original movie, the mix of nineties music with the classic storyline made it an amusing way to spend the evening.
I will say that I definitely missed the original cast. It was just not quite the same without Alicia Silverstone and Paul Rudd. Cher is normally played by Dove Cameron, who is a person I’m supposed to have heard of… I never had, but all my students told me all about her when I mentioned I was going to see the show. She turned out to be out for the performance. And so the theater was filled with two types of people: disappointed tweens who were there to see Dove Cameron and their parents who loved Clueless. I have no comparison, but I enjoyed the understudy a lot. She embodied a lot, but not quite all of, the spirit that Alicia Silverstone had when she played Cher. I was disappointed in Dave Thomas Brown’s portrayal of Josh at first, but he grew on me towards the end of the first act (I don’t really think this was his fault as an actor, I just really adore Paul Rudd).
The name Clueless was enough of a draw for me, and then I found that it’s a jukebox musical, using all songs from the 80’s and 90’s with reworked lyrics to match the scenes. This included songs from the original movie, as well as other classics like Ace of Base’s “Beautiful Life,” N’Sync’s “Bye Bye Bye” and Tai Bachman’s “She’s So High,” which was a duet between Josh and Cher and my favorite number in the whole show.
Costume-wise, Amy Clark stayed true to the original work. Cher’s iconic plaid mini-skirt and blazer were there, as well as the red dress she gets mugged in (although they call it an Armani instead of an Alaia… sidebar, I’m realizing as I write this that I’m pretty sure I love wearing little red dresses because of Clueless), her plaid skirt, vest, and long sleeved shirt combination that she wears when Tai called her “a virgin who can’t drive.” Dionne’s outfits were just as outrageous, and Josh wore the obligatory plaid shirts and activist t-shirts. They really embodied the spirit of the 90’s and the original movie. They even put in the fact that Murray never pulls his pants up high enough, and gave him costumes to reflect that.
Clueless: the Musical premiered at The Pershing Square Signature Theater on November 20, 2018. Unfortunately, for those interested in checking it out, we saw it the night before it closed on January 12.