Sex, gags and dunk shots mix in Douglas Carter Beane’s “Lysistrata Jones,” about a group of cheerleaders who decide to remain chaste to motivate their boyfriends on the Athens U. basketball team to put an end to the school’s 33-year losing streak. This college-level “High School Musical” is layered with giddy and sometimes wicked sophistication, and its company of 12 delivers bright performances backed by energetically brisk staging in this sweetly silly romp. Auds will find it difficult to abstain from laughter.
The show is a direct descendant of Beane’s earlier “Xanadu,” but far superior to that show, and funnier than his other current Broadway musical, “Sister Act.” Borrowing its plot from Aristophanes, “Lysistrata Jones” juxtaposes lowbrow popular entertainment with highbrow wit to deliver good-natured jabs at modern culture, mores and quirks as transfer student Lizzie (Patti Murin) convinces her squad, whose boyfriends are all on the court, to withhold the goods until they win.
The show at the Walter Kerr Theater is pretty much identical to the version mounted by the Transport Group last spring down on Washington Square, with one minor cast change. Beane has continued to update his script; there’s a joke about Newt Gingrich at Tiffany’s, and another in which the leading lady asks her iPhone’s Siri about neighborhood brothels.
Performances have continued to grow. Murin makes an adorable and undefeatable Lizzie; Josh Segarra is likable as the dull basketball star who secretly spouts Frost and Dickinson; Lindsay Nicole Chambers is perfect as the librarian geek who communicates through poetry slams; and Liz Mikel is the big-voiced oversized Greek goddess who is the only adult in the house.
Funniest and most impressive is Jason Tam, who played the injured dancer Paul in the recent “Chorus Line.” Here he is immensely droll as the computer geek Xander, giving a hysterical exhibition of eccentric dancing as he Googles the steps on his cellphone.
Helmer/choreographer Dan Knechtges, heretofore known in the latter role, keeps the show moving like a fluid basketball game, providing laffs along the way. Weakest link is the score by Lewis Flinn. The music is merely functional, in no way as tasty as the other elements; the lyrics have some bright spots, at least when they are not overamplified past audibility. This was something of a problem when the show played downtown on an actual basketball court at Judson Memorial Church, but the sound is unaccountably more garbled at the Kerr.