NEW YORK - I have seen the dark-horse hit of the Broadway season so far, and it's an out-and-out hoot called Lysistrata Jones with wild precision dancing, songs that never miss and a plot as ancient as Aristophanes. Actually, it is Aristophanes.
The Greek playwright won't get a penny for it (been dead too long) and isn't even credited in the playbill. But if the buzz grows, his modern-day counterparts will have it made, and audiences will be buying into a wickedly funny musical with an absurd plot - college girls withholding sex until their guys finally win a varsity basketball game.
I can tell you right off, parents of college girls won't like it because of what it says about the baseline of sexual mores among college kids, and neither will sermonizers of any stripe. But I also know that Lysistrata Jones will find a younger-than-usual audience, and not because kids today are such ardent fans of the original ancient comedy, about how a woman named Lysistrata attempts to end the Peloponnesian War by convincing the gals of Greece to withhold all sugar from their beaus.
The original Lysistrata had its premiere 2,422 years ago in Athens, and updating it to a college basketball court would seem to dilute whatever strength Aristophanes gave his remarkably early take on sexual politics and the power of women. Yet the new plot, with a hilarious book by Douglas Carter Beane (The Little Dog Laughed, Sister Act, Xanadu) and saucy, throbbing music and lyrics by his life partner, Lewis Flinn, keeps the theme pumping. Lysistrata Jones both eviscerates and celebrates a romanticized college culture, has a great looking cast and is a smiler the whole way through, all of which should draw younger theatergoers in.
Which isn't to say that us, um, more experienced college grads and others won't like it. How could we not laugh with a show whose gals key into iPhone directions to find the way to the nearest brothel for tips on teasing the basketball players before all-out denying them? Whose guys all talk in extreme urban English except for one standard-English speaker - the only black kid on the basketball team.
It's a stitch, and a playfully lurid one, electrified by director Dan Knechtges' breathless choreography and a bunch of talented musical actors. One is an earth-motherish madam, griot, adviser and goddess, all wrapped into the person of Liz Mikel, a hot mama who commands a stage just by showing up.
Others are the spunky, big-voiced Patti Murin in the title role, Jason Tam as a nerd who joins the coeds in their cause, Josh Segarra as the wholly defeated basketball captain and Lindsay Nicole Chambers as a smart-girl-on-campus who encourages the ploy to get the guys at Athens U to win the first game in more than three decades.
According to the ladies, the varisty team has simply given up. And they are ready to force the issue. "No more giving it up 'til you give up giving it up!" they sing, defiantly. In this season of giving, here's one place where withholding reigns.