Here’s your fun pop culture fact of the day: In Mexico and Venezuela, the enduringly adored musical Grease is known as Vaselina. That said…
Ike Avelli’s Lube is an over-the-top reinvention of that enduringly adored musical, featuring singing, dancing, black comedy, an endless supply of in-jokes at the expense of its inspiration, and even an appearance by… Britney Spears (Dana Michelle Savage)! Since the show’s sponsor is Uberlube, the audience is treated to some naughty Uberlube “commercials” throughout the show, starring Mr. Avelli, Tym Moss, and the late great Robynne Kaamil. And because this is an Ike Avelli show, of course there’s an audience participation segment. While the heart of the original play and movie Grease was a sickeningly sweet boy-meets-girl love story, Avelli’s self-proclaimed “gay-sical” breaks every rule with an unapologetically fierce queer sensibility. If you want some preliminary proof: One of the characters sings a torch song while sitting in the men’s room, as a glory hole stares back at him. In another number, Avelli’s character “Muff” (Really!) turns Hopelessly Devoted to You into a new anthem for stalkers. Yes, Lube indeed starts off with an innocent boy-meets-girl love story, just like its inspiration. But, let’s just say that it gets complicated shortly afterward. After all, this is a show patently made for 2019, where “It’s Complicated” has become a legitimate relationship status. The creators and cast of this show take great delight in parodying the eternal hits from Grease, as well as adding a delicious soundtrack of can’t-miss musical favorites from other decades. Parodying the beloved, wholesome, all-American musical Grease? HOW DARE THEY?! Adding new music from other eras? HOW DARE THEY?! Making references to cell phones, John Holmes, and “O-M-G”s? HOW DARE THEY?!
But think about this, kids: The first Grease, produced in 1971, was reportedly far more raunchy, aggressive, and vulgar than subsequent theatrical versions or the 1978 movie, PG-rated prurience notwithstanding. The funny, bawdy, and just slightly absurdist Lube, which made its debut at New York City’s iconic Triad Theater, may actually be more in tune with the spirit of the original Grease. And what about this gay-sical’s deliciously defiant anachronisms? Well, if a 1970’s movie takes place in the 50’s and casts late 20- and 30-somethings as high school kids, then Lube can throw in a Spice Girls song or a “Whatcha talkin’ about Willis?” without condemnation from the musical theater gods. But on to the story: We are introduced to the two handsome “Flipping Birds”, “Eagle” (Sam Oz Stone) and “Parakeet” (Isaac Ryckeghem). The opening number is designed for the two guys to show us how bad-ass they are, as they strut their teenage bravado to Queen’s We Will Rock You. Being horny young men, they soon notice the feminine charms of the two “Pink Vaginas”, “Muff” (Avelli) and “Labia” (Moss). The “girls” take notice of the guys as well– or, at least, parts of them. While the sarcastic Muff makes Stockard Channing’s Betty Rizzo seem as innocent as a novitiate nun, Moss’ Labia is more scatterbrained and naïve than Olivia Newton-John’s Sandy Olsson ever was. Do you feel a “battle of the sexes” coming on? You haven’t even scratched the surface!
Underneath all the naughtiness, the audience will also learn that this is one talented cast. Sam Oz Stone boasts a very high-reaching vocal style with a dreamlike, youthful quality. Baritone Isaac Ryckeghem owns a robust, lusty, and soulful voice with a powerful delivery. The complimentary singing styles of Stone and Ryckeghem make their duet The Girl is Mine a high point of the show. I’ll go as far to say that they are better than Michael and Paul. (HOW DARE I?!) Another talented singer, Tym Moss inspires some genuine sympathy between raunchy lyrics in his reworking of There Are Worse Things I Could Do. As Britney Spears, the alluring Dana Michelle Savage is the liquor-soaked cherry on this party-sized pop tart of a cake. You won’t believe that this blonde diva ISN’T lip synching. I won’t give too much away except to say that there is ultimately a happy ending to Lube, which is needless to say different from Grease but which allows the Flipping Birds to show more chest hair. And… Tym Moss’ “Labia” doesn’t even need to do a slutty costume change to find true
love lust. But you’ll need to explain to your more sheltered friends what “scissoring” is…
To re-state the obvious, Lube is more fun than watching the 1980 movie Xanadu while stoned. Even when the cast isn’t singing the R-rated parodies, the show gets nonstop laughs from both its sight gags and from the comedic talents of the cast, who know the power of wordless acting via facial expressions and body language. You’ll be laughing so hard, in fact, that you may not even ask the obvious burning questions, such as: Where does one of the Flipping Birds put his mic while he’s singing from underneath a car? Forget the 1982 movie Grease 2. Lube is what the sequel to our beloved all-American musical should have been.
HOW DARE I?!
Ike Avelli’s Lube will soon be making, ahem, a second coming. Stay posted!