The ‘Brooklyn hipster musical’ doesn’t totally suck after all

FUE _Skiball

Name that Brooklyn bar. Photo courtesy of F#%king Up Everything.

For purposes of this review, I am breaking Brokelyn’s number one, OK, only editorial rule: no using the term “hipster.” This transgression is required by the fact that new off Broadway musical, F#%king Up Everything, describes itself in press materials as a “Brooklyn hipster musical.” I know… When I received the press release for the show I cringed at the the flagrant use of that word and was curious to see how many ridiculous Brooklyn clichés could possibly be packed into song and dance numbers. The answer is a lot. But that didn’t stop me from loving it. Which is basically how I feel about Brooklyn.

F#%ing Up Everything premiered last night Elektra Theater in Times Square. I was skeptical, but I didn’t hate it. In fact, I smiled and laughed along with the rest of the audience through almost the entire show with very little eye rolling. If you can’t enjoy a lighthearted musical that doesn’t take itself too seriously, uses lots of dirty sex puns and includes campy indie-rock songs about bongs, areolas, jizzing your Superman undies and pooping yourself, well then you’re just dead inside.

FUE is a classic boy-meets-girl musical, like Grease or West Side Story, but with more ironic t-shirts, puppets, and a fuck of a lot more cursing. Sensitive and nerdy aspiring puppeteer Christian Mohammed Schwartzelberg (Max Crumm) (think Jason Schwartzman in Bored to Death/Michael Cera in, well, anything) falls for ukulele-playing Juliana (Katherine Cozumel). But he has competition in his oldest “bro,” Jake (Jason Gotay), a phony but swaggeriffic indie rock “douchebag.”

The set is retro rec room covered in random nostalgic junk likely thrifted or picked up at the Flea. There’s a sign that indicates we are inside Trash Bar, but the set feels like Bait & Tackle or any other divey local spot. There is a kit set up in the corner, as if some local aspiring indie rock band is about to come on for a set. And, in fact, they are; the band within the show, Ironic Maiden, plays the entire score.

Brooklyn is prominent in every character and element of the show. There is copious tongue-in-cheek mocking — one character is a blogger who works at Park Slope Food Co-Op, another a vampy pin-up style seductress who attends fetish parties and name drops Lena Dunham. The show proceeds from Trash, to McCarren Park (“between the bocce courts and the field where the metrosexuals play kickball”), to Pete’s Candy Store, to the G train, to Bushwick (“where boys go to become men”), and finally to the holy grail of local indie rock bands, Brooklyn Bowl.

The characters are caricatures of Brooklyn stereotypes. But stereotypes become stereotypes for a reason. The actors, the book and the lyrics are fondly aware of how silly they are; how silly we can be. Some moments that might sound familiar:

  • “We just met and I’m supposed to act all aloof, but can I get your number?” — Christian
  • “You can’t get lost if you’re not trying to get anywhere.” — Stoner Tony
  • “When I hit the big three-oh I’ll embrace the status quo.” — Jake
  • “It might be nice to date someone who’s not trying to be so cool all the time.” — Juliana
  • Carrying handmade puppets in an NPR tote bag.
  • A whole song done via email.
  • Adorable cat-eye glasses girl pining over hot hipster douchebag whose personality is clearly awful.
  • A reggae-style love song to a bong. (Standout stoner performance by Douglas Widick, as Tony, wearing jorts and a Native American printed tank top with Vans and a purple headband. Nailed it.)
  • Band dudes dressed like the Amish and Sea Captains.

From a musical theater standpoint (as if I am qualified to report on that at all), the songs and melodies were a little forgettable; like any indie-band in any divey bar, anywhere in Brooklyn on a Sunday night. The girly ballads especially will not be in my Spotify Broadway playlist. But the music was a vehicle for bold, witty, and punny lyrics about something we can all relate to — looking for love in this bizarre place and moment of time.

Of course it’s silly and campy and ridiculous and littered with stereotypes; it’s musical theater about a place that’s a fucking brand. But F#%king Up Everything is a funny and enjoyable show (plus the bar has absinthe and cheapish drinks). So unless your heart is black from all the cynical, judgmental hipster-hating, I bet you’ll get a heart on too.

F#%ing Up Everything @FUEonstage now showing at the Elektra Theater, 699 8th Avenue. Tickets are $25 – Wednesdays & Thursdays at 7pm, Fridays at 8pm, and Saturdays at 10pm. Music & Lyrics by David Eric Davis, Book by Sam Forman & David Eric Davis, Directed & Choreographed by Jen Wineman, Orchestrations & Music Supervision by Matt Hinkley.

2 Comment

  • they aren’t really brooklyn stereotypes though, they’re brooklyn versions of ‘hipster’ stereotypes. ‘hipster’ is a kind of brooklyn stereotype, true, but there are way more non-hipster stereotypes too, like racist pizzeria owner, park slope stroller mom or grumpy hasidic landlord.

    • I don’t think I’d see a musical about a park slope stroller mom though. Songs about breastfeeding and getting into PS321, cringe.