Katdashians! Break the Musical! began 15 minutes late. If only that were its gravest error.
The show blends stories from the Kardashians’ lives with a few elements from Cats. The characters have names like Catlyn Jenner and make puns like “purrrfect.” Why combine the Kardashians and Cats? It doesn’t matter.
While adopting a tinsel-thin veneer of satire, the musical is in fact a winking endorsement of the reality TV franchise aimed squarely at the same audience that keeps up with Kim, Khloé, and the whole Kit and Kaboodle. But somehow, Katdashians! doesn’t even rise to the level of celebration; it merely rehashes and revels in the Kardashians’ insipid family drama, but with feline costumes and makeup. We had only scant data on the Kardashians upon walking into the Elektra Theatre on Saturday night. Having seen this musical, we now know more than we ever wanted to.
The producers were recently threatened with a lawsuit by Andrew Lloyd Webber, since many of the songs were lifted from Cats and put to different lyrics. As of last week, the tunes of six musical numbers have been changed to avoid litigation, but the book and choreography remain, regrettably, the same. This was a show that, in its original form, the Lord Lloyd Webber did not want you to see. Despite some music having been altered, it’s hard to imagine he has changed his mind.
We’re not just being snobs here; there are some truly abominable scenes. Chief among them is one in which Kris Kat brings forth her new boyfriend, “Corey Gamble from Atlanta,” a real person represented on stage not by an actor, but by an enormous black dildo. It is a horribly racist joke in an already vapid musical.
The actors made spirited attempts to inject some dignity into the despair-provoking material they were given. Most notable among them were Peter Smith (Bruce/Catlyn Jenner) and Bridget Kennedy (Kourtney Kat); these two obviously had comic acting chops and tried valiantly to be funny. But they struck us as triaging a hopeless catastrophe, like field surgeons in the Civil War with no access to clean instruments.
The sound design, if it can be called that, was unforgivable. Whenever something loud happened (which, between the squealing and off-key singing, was most of the time), it sounded like someone had pulled the emergency brake on an antique subway train. The show hurt to listen to.
By far the most uplifting aspect of the evening was the tireless effort of stage manager Andrea Wilhelm, who after the show was very thorough in finding us a playbill, which we lacked because the house had run out beforehand. Wilhelm was the model of professionalism, and any production in New York would be lucky to have her.
We cannot recommend this show to anyone, unless you have a sworn enemy for whom you would like to buy a ticket. Starting at $25, it would be a pretty cheap revenge, and may we suggest gifting tickets to Donald Trump before the show closes. As satire, the show is at once declawed, spayed, and neutered. And like a cat with distemper, it should be put down.
Katdashians! Break the Musical! continues at the Elektra Theater (300 West 43rd Street, Hell’s Kitchen, Manhattan) through July 30.