Bicep Concept

The Great American Arm Wrestling Musical is heremaybe

There's a lot going on in local theater these days. You'd think we'd be looking at Shakespeare Orange County's faithful production of Macbeththat director Tom Bradac says is focused on the text and engaging the audience through direct addresses rather than miring itself in 20th century notions like psychological realism. Or Loot at Insurgo Theater Movement; it's one of the funniest plays written by Joe Orton, the funniest playwright ever to be bludgeoned to death by his gay lover. In Santa Ana, the Rude Guerrilla Theatre Co.is mounting Lilies, or the Revival of a Romantic Drama,Canadian playwright Michael Marc's play about a bishop who is abducted and forced to watch as a parade of prisoners act out scenes from his shameful, sexually ambiguous past. And speaking of shameful, sexually ambiguous pasts, there's also The King,Brian Newell's ridiculously popular homage to Elvis Presley, who returns to the limelight after 25 years in frozen storage. Staged at the Buena Park Civic Theatre, this is the fourth venue that has hosted Newell's multimedia rock & roll fantasia. That means this beast has legs.

You'd think we'd be looking at those, butyou'd be wrong. What has these fingers quivering in excitement and these knees knocking in trepidation is a brand-new musical that opens Friday, a show that very well could be the worst musical ever. And we're talking ever.

It's Over the Top Live!—a musical treatment of one of the most unforgettably horrible movies ever: Over the Top,Sylvester Stallone's foray into the emotionally complex, dramatically riveting world of arm wrestling. It may take a little prodding, but somewhere between the eight balls and Members Only jackets, you may remember this stinker of all stinkers, directed by Menahem Golan, whose scarily apocalyptic name is matched only by the gruesome litany of bad movies he was involved with. (His Cannon Films produced a charnel house of crap in the 1980s, including Captain Americaand Sinbad of the Seven Seas, starring Lou Ferrigno.)

But wait: it gets worse. The film, and we're being very charitable by calling it that, was co-written by Gary Conway, a former actor who starred in two other unforgettably atrocious movies,I was a Teen-age Frankenstein and Sagas of the Viking Women and Their Voyage to the Waters of the Great Sea Serpent,two of the best reasons to forget that 1957 ever existed.

In other words, this thing has some kind of pedigree. And now it is a musical, courtesy of something called Dred Scott Productions, a young production company based in Orange County headed by Ryan Haley and Brett Voeller, two Edison High School graduates and aspiring filmmakers. Whether the duo are the OC version of Trey Parker and Matt Stone or haplessly retarded remains to be seen. The first indicator will be this weekend, when Over the Top: Live!opens at something called the Starlight Theatre, a Costa Mesa theater located in a strip mall.

Turning a movie into a musical is something Haley and Voeller wanted to do since seeing the musical version of Chicago.But rather than choose something good like, say, Ishtaror that John Wayne movie where he starred as Genghis Khan and everyone on the set ultimately died of cancer, they chose Over the Top.Why?

"It is the worst movie I have ever seen," Haley said. "Every time I watch it, I realize how bad it is. The only thing missing is songs."

"And I fancy myself as a pretty good arm wrestler," Voeller said. "So why not?"

Obviously only the most sadistically perverse human being would ever stage a musical version of this movie with utter sincerity and conviction. From what it sounds like, Over the Top: Live!is as sincere and convicted as porn guru John Stagliano's Buttmanseries. These guys sound less like theater people out to impress than gleefully shameless entertainers out to skewer and have fun.

Basically, the creators watched the movie and "took out all the unimportant stuff: which left us with about six minutes to work with," Haley said. "But we've hit all the main points and added a few things, like pirates and ninjas. There's also a character named Sylvester Stallone."

It's also an opportunity, the creators say, to lampoon the out-of-control use of pop-culture references in contemporary entertainment, as well as to turn the whole idea of '80s nostalgia on its head.

"We're going to make this show feel just like the '80s," Haley said. "Everyone's going to do a line of coke right before we go on to make it even more real."

Over the Top: Live! by Dred Scott Productions at the Starlight Theatre, 1125-A Victoria St., Costa Mesa, (949) 645-STAR. Opens Fri. Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 5 & 8 p.m. Through Aug. 28. $9-$10.

 
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