What better way to celebrate the month of October than by drinking Halloween-themed cocktails while watching Tony-winner Marissa Jaret Winokur belt out “I Put a Spell on You” in full witch regalia? If you make your way to Rockwell Table & Stage, a theater/bar/restaurant and one of LA’s most unique venues, you can do just that while laughing along to The Unauthorized Musical Parody of Hocus Pocus, the latest in the venue’s hit series that puts a modern, comedic spin on popular films.
The Unauthorized Musical Parody Of series, created by Kate Pazakis, who co-wrote the Hocus Pocus parody with John Flynn, is frequently churning out new iterations. I previously saw their takes on Cruel Intentions and Clueless, and Hocus Pocus is the perfect Halloween choice to continue the fun. For anyone who may be unfamiliar, Hocus Pocus is a 1993 Disney film about the Sanderson sisters, a trio of witches who are hanged in 1693 Salem after draining a young girl’s youth and turning her older brother into an immortal, talking black cat. 300 years later, when a virgin teenage boy lights the Black Flame Candle on Halloween night, the sisters are resurrected and have one more chance at sucking out the souls of all of the children of Salem.
Obviously this movie, which has become a bit of a cult classic thanks to many re-airings on basic cable over the years, is a bit ridiculous, making it ideal for the parody treatment. At these shows, anything goes—it’s common for adults to play children, men to play women, actors to wander through the crowd and sit in your lap for extended periods of time (this happened to me) or take a sip of (or even finish) your drink (thankfully that one did not happen to me). Directed by Tye Blue and musically directed by Gregory Nabours, the staging is minimal, the song choices are instantly recognizable and fun, and the talent level is through the roof.
The show is double cast, meaning you may see different actors and actresses depending on which night you attend. At the performance I went to, the cast was led by none other than Jaret Winokur as Winifred Sanderson, the role made famous by Bette Midler in the film. Early on, the ridiculously self-aware script notes that she is a Tony winner—”well, what am I doing in Los Feliz?” She brought down the house with her rendition of “I Put a Spell on You,” which is memorably featured in the movie. Cindy Sciacca and Haviland Stillwell co-starred as her sisters Mary and Sarah—Mary is the overlooked one who memorably steals her moment in the spotlight at the end in the parody version, and Sarah is the sexy one about whom many Sex and the City references are made as a result of Sarah Jessica Parker originating the role in the film. Robert Ramirez and Ashley Argota play Max and Allison, the teens who accidentally summon the witches and embrace their teen hormones in the process. As their intro they sang a mash-up of “Sk8er Boi” by Avril Lavigne and “Basketcase” by Green Day, so how can you go wrong? Argota in particular had an extraordinary voice, and the show enjoyed poking fun at her character’s relative pointlessness aside from being an exposition machine. The cast I saw also featured Lana McKissack as Max’s little sister Dani, Tom DeTrinis as Thackery Binx, among others, Spencer Strong Smith as various roles, and Peter Allen Vogt as the narrator.
The most remarkable thing about The Unauthorized Musical Parody of Hocus Pocus and this series as a whole is how perfectly it manages to appeal to both a mainstream audience who likes movies and a fun night out and a more typical theatergoing audience. I mean, there was an Ovation Awards joke and the band subtly started playing an instrumental version of “Good Morning Baltimore” at one point. The only glitch was that on the night I attended, the cast was plagued by sound issues requiring handheld microphones to be substituted in a couple times, although the actors rolled with the punches and incorporated the situation into their jokes. If you’re looking for a fun, different Halloween activity outside of haunted houses and pumpkin patches, and especially if you are a 90s kid, I highly recommend making your way to Rockwell to check out this spellbinding, hilarious show.
The Unauthorized Musical Parody of Hocus Pocus runs through November 19th with performances Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evenings at 8pm, as well as boozy Sunday Funday brunch shows at 12pm. The venue requires a minimum purchase of 2 items per person before and during the performance. Tickets range from $22-$49 and can be purchased here. To stay up to date on future entries into the Musical Parody Of series (they teased Home Alone for the holidays and The Hunger Games early next year), follow @UMPOSeries on social media.