Pest Control – the Musical

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.

With:
Bob Dillon - Darren Ritchie Parker - Beth Malone Marcella/Vega - Joanna Glushak Bug/Renaldo - John Allsopp Chantelle - Dana Meller Klaus - Jay Willick Wolfe - Cleavant Derricks Mr. Maxwell - Paul Denniston Jon - Alex Robert Holmes Jean - Karesa McElheny

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.

Pest Control - the Musical

NoHo Arts Center; 99 seats; $35 top

Production: An Open at the Top Productions in arrangement with Canum Entertainment presentation of a musical in two acts with book by John Jay Moores Jr., music by Vladimir Shainsky and lyrics by Scott DeTurk. Directed and choreographed by James J. Mellon. Music direction by David Manning.

Crew: Sets, Eugene Caine-Epstein; costumes, Scott A. Lane; lighting, Luke Moyer; sound, Jonathan Burke; production stage manager, Christopher "CB" Brown. Opened, reviewed April 25, 2008; runs through June 8. Running time: 2 HOURS, 40 MIN.

Cast: Bob Dillon - Darren Ritchie Parker - Beth Malone Marcella/Vega - Joanna Glushak Bug/Renaldo - John Allsopp Chantelle - Dana Meller Klaus - Jay Willick Wolfe - Cleavant Derricks Mr. Maxwell - Paul Denniston Jon - Alex Robert Holmes Jean - Karesa McElhenyEnsemble: Jonathan Zenz, Janet Fontaine, Sabrina Miller, Megan S. Densmore, J.R. Mangels, Billie Puyear

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