By Carter James
When I first heard that UM Theatre was putting on a show titled “Punk Rock Girl!,” I was curious to see what a punk jukebox musical would be like. Unfortunately, there wasn’t as much punk as expected, and there was too much camp.
Fundamentally, the show is flawed. Despite its efforts, the story beats are remarkably unoriginal. Every single trope you would expect from the coming-of-age and musical genres are here. Characters forming an unlikely friendship, learning to love something you were conditioned to hate, questioning love, being torn between two worlds, etc.
On top of that, the show moves at a breakneck pace. Scenes bleed into each other without any breathing room, as soon as dialogue is finished, you’re propelled into a quick musical number.
My biggest problem, however, is how the show constantly reminds you this it’s camp. Camp is a style that is outrageous and gaudy in an ironic value. Almost every other line of dialogue and musical number is an attempt at comedy. You’re assaulted with jokes left, right, up, down and even sideways. The problem is that most of these jokes do not land. With already unoriginal writing, the comedic dialogue comes off as quirky and straight up cringy. It doesn’t take long to figure out how unfunny the entire show is.
The best way to describe the entire show is that everything is thrown at the wall, hoping to stick, except for nothing truly interesting or punk.
The punk-ness of the show is by far the weakest part of it. For a punk jukebox musical, you would expect needle drops from punk songs and artists, right? What “Punk Rock Girl!” features instead are an unhealthy amount of contemporary music and no true punk selections. Musical numbers will have excerpts from Pink or Katy Perry.
There are no songs from British bands featured in the show. The punk rock genre is nothing without the British influence like Sex Pistols or The Smiths, and it’s quite frankly insulting that there was none to be found.
Even though I wasn’t fully on board with the story and style of “Punk Rock Girl!,” what kept me interested were the great performances and strong technical aspects.
Though the cast and ensemble did not have good material to work with, they still deliver great performances.
Macy Robinson delivers a strong lead performance as Angela Quivers, and owns every musical number she is in. Hannah Mallory is in control of every scene she is in as the co-lead, Proxi. She has as an excellent display of vocal range that is unexpected as she is the titular punk.
The standout performances come from Olivia LeComte as Patricia and Thomas Massey as Dudley. Massey has impeccable comedic timing and always one-ups himself in every scene. LeComte is without a doubt the show stealer as Patricia. Their mere presence changes dynamics in characters immediately. It only takes seconds for them to make the scene their own, and even less to flex their musical skills.
The supporting cast and ensemble are good and are given their time to shine. Sometimes the ensemble does outshine the main cast and some musical numbers they drown out the leads rather than complementing them. This is not the ensemble’s fault however and can be easily just another part of an already messy structure.
The technical aspects of the show are perfect, however. The set design is fundamentally minimal, yet rich with detail. The costumes are wonderfully bright and add to the campy style the show is going for. The lighting and sound are well composed and never miss a beat.
“Punk Rock Girl!” is a heartfelt mess. There is an undeniable amount of effort, love, and energy from the cast and crew. The show they’ve been given, however, could not reciprocate any of those qualities. The constant number of jokes accompanied with a break-neck pace leaves the already lazy story confusing. On top of that, there’s a lack of punk in a punk jukebox musical. Despite that, there is an excellent display of talent on and off stage from UM Theatre.