Beneath the Music | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Beneath the Music

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Beneath the Music, ComedySportz. This parody of VH-1's popular documentary series Behind the Music is at its best when chronicling the birth of fictional 80s band Modern Excess. Brit keyboardist Jeremy (Jeffrey L. Shivar) and twerp drummer Simon (Jay Sukow) meet at the Glenwood Home for Boys; they're joined by flaky Trace from Cicero (Alida Vitas) and bitchy vocalist Sara (Lori McClain) and subsequently recruit Skylar (Cayne Collier), a pompously seductive guitarist, vocalist, and songwriter who speaks about himself in the third person. Head writer Nick Ellis and director Steph DeWaegeneer keep this first part moving swiftly with clever quips, quick cuts between characters (including a know-it-all Rolling Stone critic, played perfectly by Joe Janes), and snatches of music and behind-the-scenes video.

Unflappable narrator Marty Green provides cool transitions that mimic the VH-1 show and contrast with the band's ever-more-absurd adventures; for example, they insist that Simon quit drumming when he loses his arms in a tragic car accident, even though Simon clearly has arms and even juggles to prove it. The manic pace of the first half hour proves difficult to sustain, however. Once the band becomes established, the comedy feels stale--there's not much ground here that Spinal Tap and a hundred other parody bands haven't covered. The "documentary" is followed by a short live set of insipid 80s-style pop from Modern Excess's comeback tour--which would have been painful if not for a surprisingly good improvised song based on audience suggestions.

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