Mediocre songs, a generic rock score and a skimpy book plague “Pest Control … the Musical” in its world premiere production at the NoHo Arts Center. It is, however, an impressive production: James J. Mellon’s direction and choreography are frequently clever, tech credits are excellent and the two lead actors are charming.
Relatively happy exterminator Bob Dillon (Darren Ritchie) happens upon a bar that caters to assassins, and he unwittingly convinces everyone there that he’s one of them. He is offered a job by Marcella (Joanna Glushak), the head of a murder-for-hire outfit. He also meets waitress Parker (Beth Malone), falling for her immediately. What he doesn’t know is that she’s an undercover CIA agent, and that he is in much more trouble than he could possibly guess.
Ritchie brings charisma and a solid singing voice to his role, and his perfs of the acoustic “Worse Than Dyin'” and the rap “E.Y.E.” are significantly better than the songs themselves. Malone’s role is underwritten yet she makes it work through sheer talent; her rendition of “It Must Be a Pheromone Thing” is delightful. Cleavant Derricks has little to work with as CIA agent Wolfe, but he uses his rich voice to good effect in “Back Then.”
Mellon uses his whole bag of tricks here, from strobe effects to people climbing nets to video projections, and the result is visually arresting. His choreography is strong, particularly in “She’s There,” where Malone is made to appear everywhere on the bi-level set in a very short period of time. Eugene Caine-Epstein’s set is striking, full of rusting girders and multiple small staging areas, but his use of fumigation tarps as theatrical curtains is brilliant. Scott A. Lane’s costumes are detailed and stylish, from the white vinyl outfits of the exterminators to the suggestions of exoskeletons on the giant cockroach costumes. Luke Moyer’s lighting is versatile and vital.