Just Make Sure You Get The Right Exterminator

This afternoon we joined ixixlix and crew at the final performance of “Pest Control: The Musical” at the NoHo Arts Center. “Pest Control” tells the story of Bob Dillon (yes, that’s his name), the mild mannered head of Pest Control, an extermination service, whose passion is killing…. bugs. We first meet Bob in a dream sequence when the roaches of his nightmares are crawling out and threatening him. We also meet Marcella, who also runs an extermination service… of a (shall we say) different kind. Her top “exterminator” (her borther Klaus) is retiring, and she is in worried about finding an equally capable replacement. When Bob stumbles into Klaus’ retirement party, two things happen: first, his type of extermination is misunderstood by the clientele there, and Bob falls in love with the waitress (who is in reality, CIA Agent Parker). Marcella hires Bob to rub out Mr. Roach. When Mr. Roach dies of a bee sting, Bob is considered responsible… and is suddenly believed to be legendary “Vanished Killer”. Soon the CIA is hiring him to rub out the leader of a small South American company, which will permit them to embrace capitalize, and open up a chain of high-priced coffee stores with a green and white logo to sell their coffee. Will Bob takes the job? Will he succeed? What happens afterwards? Was Bob really a normal pest control exterminator to begin with, or was he really the legend just pulling off an act?

In many ways, this was a perfect show. There was strong singing and dancing. The actors were spot on, enjoying their roles and being a delight to watch. The rock/rap score worked perfectly. The lighting was effective. The sets were strong and made great use of the space. The micing (sound) was perfect. The costumes were spot on (include one song where the lead actress changed costume about 10 times during the song). It was just great. I’m sorry we caught the last show so more folks couldn’t be recommended to see it.

So, who was responsible for making this work? In the lead role of Bob, the seemingly nieve nerdish exterminator, was Darren Ritchieæ. This young man exuded charism and charm, could dance and sing strongly, and even accompanied himself on guitar. Opposite him as CIA Agent Parker was Beth Maloneæ, who we last saw in Sister Act. Another strong singer, actor, and dancer, Malone was a delight to watch. Assisting Bob at the Pest Control service were Alex Robert Holmesæ as Jon and Karesa McElhenyæ as Jean. Of course, every CIA agent needs a boss: Agent Parker’s was Agent Wolfe, played by Cleavant Derricksæ. As for the other extermination agency, it was headed by Joanna Glushakæ as Marcella, Jay Willickæ as Klaus, Dana Melleræ as Chantelle, and Paul Dennistonæ as Mr. Maxwell. In the role as the lead menacing bug (who did a great job of it) was John Allsoppæ. Rounding out the ensemble were Suzanne Carltonæ, Megan S. Densmore, Janet Fontaineæ, J. R. Mangels, Sabrina Miller, Billie Puyear, Erik Sorensenæ, and Jonathan Zenzæ. All of these actors were extremely talented and amazing.
[æ denotes members of æ Actors Equity]

Technically, the set design was by Eugene Caine-Epstein (assisted by Dana Moran Williams), with costumes by Scott A. Lane, hair by Diane Martinous, lighting by Luke Moyer, and sound by Jonathan Burke. This show was a technical marvel, with a multilevel stage, fabulous lights that did wonderful mood establishment, great visuals, and stunning costumes (especially the roaches).

Turning to the basics of the production: This is a new musical, with book by John Jay Moores Jr., music by Vladimir Shainskiy, and lyrics by Scott DeTurk, who also supervised the music. Additional music was by Joseph Church and tea & tonik. It is inspired by the novel by L.A. crime writer Bill Fitzhugh. The production was directed by James J. Mellonæ (who also did the choreography), assisted by Christopher Brownæ (who also was production stage manager). Amy Oh was executive producer.

This was the last performance of “Pest Control.”

Next up on our theatre calendar (in two weeks) is “A Chorus Line” @ Ahmanson Theatre (Sat, 6/28 @ 2pm), and “The Taming of the Shew” (Shakespeare in the Park) on Sun, 6/29 @ 6pm in Hart Park in Santa Clarita. July brings “The Drowsy Chaperone” at Ahmanson Theatre (Sun 7/13 @ 1pm), “Parade” at Neighborhood Playhouse, Palos Verdes (Sat 7/19 @ 8pm), “Looped” at Pasadena Playhouse (Sat 7/26 @ 8pm), and “Singing in the Rain” at Cabrillo Music Theatre (Sat 8/2 @ 2pm). I’m still exploring tickets for “Songs From an Unmade Bed” at Celebration Theatre (perhaps 7/5), as well as the Cal Phil production of the music of Rogers and Hammerstein featuring Suzanna Guzman as mezzo soprano and Kevin Earley as tenor on Sunday July 27 at 2:00p at the Disney Concert Hall.