NEW YORK — When “Dreamgirls” helmer Bill Condon took over direction of “The Twilight Saga,” more than a few cheeky journalists wondered if he’d treat fans to a bloodsucking song-and-dance extravaganza. Alas, vogueing Volturi weren’t meant to be — at least on the big screen. They have, however, found a temporary home on the New York City stage in the form of “Twilight: The Musical.” The off-Broadway parody production premiered Monday night at the New World Stages, raising money for the charity Blessings in a Backpack.
Written by Ashley Griffin and directed by Gabriel Barre, “Twilight: The Musical” is, for now, staged as a concert reading, meaning that the actors hold scripts throughout the show. But the cheat sheets did little to diminish the enthusiasm of the oft-hilarious production.
A group of eight actors play more than 30 roles, with some pulling quadruple and even quintuple duty (such as standouts Lauren Lopez and Jenna Leigh Green). With her bobbing ponytail, zip-up hoodie, skinny jeans and sullen expression, Meghann Fahy (“Next to Normal”) is a dead ringer for Bella Swan (or, at the very least, Kristen Stewart’s portrayal of Bella Swan), while “Wicked” actor Colin Hanlon looks perfectly pained as Edward Cullen. Jared Zirilli (“Wicked”) spends the entire second act shirtless, portraying Jacob with the kind of earnestness that’s made Taylor Lautner the object of many a teen’s fever dreams.
The show opens much as the “Twilight” movie does, with Bella’s monologue about her impending death followed by the cafeteria scene and the upbeat track “Looking for Something.” (Sample lyrics: “I think I see a Fork stuck in my road,” “We’re standing on the twilight of something good.”) The first act hems closely with its source material, including all the requisite scenes: Edward’s biology class freak-out, Bella’s car accident and the bookstore gang-up. Much of the dialogue comes straight from screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg’s script, too, albeit with much-welcomed embellishments. (Charlie to Bella: “I know it’s awkward starting in the middle of a semester, so I got you a truck!”)
But things take a canon-twisting turn about two-thirds of the way through the first act when Hermione, Ron and Harry show up. Yes, someone got “Harry Potter” in our “Twilight.” Instead of Victoria, James and Laurent, Hogwarts’ finest play the villains here. The meta levels reach 11 when the wizards mistakes Edward for Cedric Diggory. And so it is that Ron tracks Bella down in her old ballet studio and is done in by the Cullen coven, leaving Hermione to avenge the death of her beloved. The first act closes on Bella’s birthday — the surprisingly bloody scene from “New Moon.”
The second act opens with a freshly shorn Jacob (his wig somehow even mangier than Lautner’s) singing with his pack. From there, the production speeds through the last three books of Meyer’s series, compressing much of the story in favor of cramming it all in. Despite the odd pacing, the production sang thanks to details only a true fanatic could relish. Edward’s sparkling-in-the-sun effect is achieved with a glittery bodysuit hidden underneath the actor’s button-down like Superman’s spandex. The iconic apple from the book’s cover hangs limply (and obviously) from a springing wire gizmo as Edward tries to suavely hand it to Bella. Not to mention the actors muster plenty of fourth-wall-breaking furtive glances, letting the audience know they are in on the joke.
But the tongue-in-cheek vibe is abandoned late in the second act for a sobering bit of moralizing from Harry, who comes to Bella in a dream sequence asking if it was all worth it. “You were willing to sacrifice everything to get a boyfriend,” he says. “In the end, you destroyed yourself.” Point taken, Harry Potter. But what a buzzkill.
If you weren’t able to make the one-night-only charity benefit, don’t fret: Work is being done to bring the production to the New York stage for good.