Jinkies! The Scooby gang is up to it again in this delightful theatrical production of “Scooby-Doo! in Stagefright–Live on Stage.”
Presented as a long-lost episode of the late 1960s cartoon series, the production no doubt was concocted to drum up interest in the film version of the series, which will premiere in June. A trailer for the movie starring Sarah Michelle Gellar and Freddie Prinze Jr. was shown during intermission.
Still, that doesn’t take away from the kitschy enjoyment of this 90-minute show.
Never mind that the kiddies in attendance won’t wonder why Shaggy and his talking Great Dane Scooby-Doo act and talk like stoners. The cartoon is a piece of Americana that translates surprisingly well onstage.
On this “episode,” the gang drives to Chicago where pretty Daphne’s uncle is making a horror film for Clawhammer Pictures. It seems the set is haunted by a specter intent on driving away the film’s stars and stealing jewels from the set.
Daphne and her teenage pals take it upon themselves to figure out who–or what–is behind the specter.
Directed and written by Jim Millan, with input from former “Kids in the Hall” cast member Mark McKinney, the production pokes good-natured fun at itself. Fred, the blond All-American boy, is presented as a stiff-limbed Ken doll who really is no smarter or capable than loose-limbed, squeaky voiced, perpetually hungry Shaggy.
Their bespectacled gal pal Velma looks exactly as she does in the cartoon series. After one escapade in which Shaggy fears he and Scooby won’t survive the aftermath, he regrets they’ll “never see Velma grow out of her ugly-duckling phase.”
The actors are a delight in their roles. Bjorn Thorstad is right on as Shaggy, and Emily Fletcher is as comely as her cartoon doppelganger Daphne. Greg Cunneen has the thankless role of stick-in-the mud Fred, while Pierre-Marc Diennet (and, at times, a team of other athletic actors)–padded into a Great Dane costume–gives Scooby-Doo a life of his own.
There are some impressive theatrics for this kiddie show, which will elicit chuckles from adults as well. The fog billowing from the stage is dense and thick, while the antics are just spooky enough to keep kids entertained without frightening them. It’s also fun watching the waistlines of Shaggy and Scooby-Doo expand as they “eat” their way through a dining hall.
As for the plot, it’s familiar to anyone who has seen a couple of episodes of the cartoon series. We know the specter isn’t a real ghost, but rather someone pretending to be one to scare the kids away.
“Who wasn’t there when the specter was there?” my 5-year-old niece Catt asked during intermission, quickly running through a tally of all the characters. She actually was the only one among a group of adults to correctly deduce who the culprit was. Her Scooby-Doo sleuthing was right on track.