Tim Garrick (book) and Lori Scarlett (music and lyrics) have spawned a ragingly over-the-top tuner sendup of the Gothic horror romance genre, funneled through the rags-to-riches adventures of a poverty-stricken bayou urchin who escapes a “Deliverance” existence and fulfils her “Ice Castles” dreams of becoming a renowned figure skater. Helmer Andy Fickman charges relentlessly through this mass of raunchy silliness with fervor. Unfortunately, some unneeded plot machinations and thematic excess undermine the farcical flow of this bottom-feeding but still inventive effort, featuring a workable 20-tune score and a first-rate, thoroughly dedicated ensemble.
The action centers on unhappy Cleveland teen Amy (Reagan Pasternak), a social outcast who buries herself within the pages of Gothic horror/romance novels. Wailing “I want to be that girl,” Amy morphs into the persona of Sneaux (pronounced “Snox”) Devareaux, the much put-upon 14-year-old heroine of the current hot novel of the same name.
The first act follows Sneaux’s efforts to rise above the family dynamic as they wallow in the swamps of Commode, La. Displaying their own unique form of sibling affection, the limbs of brother Jim (Gil McKinney) and sister Darla (Christine Lakin) are perennially entwined. Long-suffering mama Hannah (Lori Alan) gets fed to a kindling chopper. And to free himself completely, daddy Larry (Andrew Wynn) decides to sell his children (and to sing “I Hate My Kids”).
Sneaux finds solace and a budding romance with monumentally geeky Arbor Lane (scripter Garrick), whose one-armed, one-legged mother, Birdie (composer Alan), gives Sneaux and her son ice-skating lessons, warning them about the road to success (“It’ll Cost You an Arm and a Leg”). Before Sneaux and Arbor can achieve happiness and fame, our heroine is sold off to unbalanced Dolly Parton clone Poppy Carlyle (Lori Scarlett) and her lascivious hubby, Carl (Paul Nygro), a vet who proceeds to give Sneaux a more-than-thorough pelvic exam to a rocking “I Won’t Hurt You,” featuring a trio of nubile dancing nurses.
The inside jokes abound to the point of tedium, including Sneaux’s being imprisoned in the Carlyle attic, a heavy-handed tribute to V.C. Andrews’ genre classic “Flowers in the Attic.” There is also an ongoing gag with her late mother’s diary, which reveals she is really the heir to the throne of France, a la “The Princess Diaries.”
The second act, called “Book Two: Bitter Frost,” moves at a thematically brisker pace and is much more successful, party because it is populated with a plethora of hilarious characters. Arriving in France to claim her birthright, Sneaux is whisked off by her ever-seething grandma Queen Celia (Alan) to a French skating school, but not before Sneaux learns that her name should be pronounced “snow” and that her rapid entanglement in the arms and legs of the pulsating “hot” French artist Didier (Joe Souza) can lead to naught because he turns out to be her long-lost brother.
On her bumpy climb to success, she finds herself confronted by a memorable menagerie of quirky folk, including Queen Celia’s always accommodating aide Bob (Wynn), imperious ice-skating maven M. Stolinaya (Nygro), her fey-to-the-max skating champion son Nyetka (Max Ciano) and Nyetka’s hard-as-nails skating partner Sissy (Lakin). Fickman and choreographer Kelly Devine achieve some truly zany effects during the skating rivalries, underscored by the comically effective sounds of John Zalewski.
Pasternak (subbing for Kristen Bell) is impressive in the demanding roles of whiny Amy and the transcendently perfect gothic heroine Sneaux. She handles the vocal chores well, especially her duets with sweet-voiced Garrick (“Strange Universe,” “Letter Duet”) and power-lunged Scarlett (“Come Get Under My Hair”). She even makes plausible the sugary first-act closing, “Through the Falling Snow” (spoofing “Ice Castles” theme “Through the Eyes of Love”).
In an ensemble of worthy portrayals, standouts include Lakin’s sexually charged comical outings as Bayou tramp Darla and British skating vixen Sissy. Souza also makes the most of his all-too-brief turn as Didier, displaying impressive vocal chops on the emotional rock ballad “Ma Vie en Noir” (My Life in Black).
Production values are excellent, but special mention must go to Ann Closs-Farley’s outrageous, vividly evocative costumes.
Despite its obvious success at the cozy Matrix Theater (extended indefinitely), there is not enough substance or inventiveness in “Sneaux” to warrant its 2½-hour length. With some judicious editing, especially in the first act, it could have the legs to move up to a larger venue.