NEW YORK — Oops, they’ve done it again. Diane Paulus and Randy Weiner, the theatrical duo behind New York’s “The Donkey Show,” have opened a new, pop-fueled production, “The Karaoke Show,” at El Flamingo. Via karaoke favorites, from “Hot in Herre” to “Bohemian Rhapsody” to “Sweet Child o’ Mine” to “Independent Women,” the show’s 15-member cast tell the story of Shakespeare’s “The Comedy of Errors.”
But the performers aren’t the only ones belting out the hits. On Thursday nights the club is packed with tipsy pop fans who follow along, reading lyrics off a huge screen behind the stage and singing for all they’re worth. It’s campy. It’s ridiculous. And it’s fun. Paulus calls the interactive entertainment “nightclub theater.”
“It’s a communal event, all these people who don’t know each other singing along to pop songs,” she says. “Pop music is in our blood. I don’t know church hymns, but I know these songs by heart. It’s part of who we are.”
The language of Shakespeare’s original, in which twins are mistaken for one another, is long lost in this production. But the spirit of the Bard’s bawdy humor remains, as do his analogies between twinship and every individual’s duality. “People become someone else because of the karaoke song they sing,” Paulus explains. “The story is about the union of the two halves of the self, and all the mishaps lead to a harmonious union.” In this case, the moment of harmony comes at the end, with a full-cast rendition of Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror.”
When the show is over, however, the karaoke aficionados have only just warmed up. Audience members are invited on-stage to strut their stuff and belt out their favorite tunes, while the show’s campy cast members sing back-up.
“It’s an opportunity to become someone else, that’s why we dress up and go out,” says Paulus. “Karaoke is deeper than wanting to be a rock star. It’s a release.”