Theater Review: The Last Breakfast Club at Rockwell Table & Stage

BreakfastClubArt-IMG_0761Most people are familiar with The Breakfast Club, the classic 1985 John Hughes film about five students—a brain, an athlete, a princess, a basket case, and a criminal—who are forced to spend a Saturday together in detention. In The Last Breakfast Club, a new musical parody playing at Rockwell Table & Stage in Los Angeles, those five iconic characters are just like you remember them…but with a few twists. See, in this version, they never left the library because there was a nuclear apocalypse. They have been stuck inside ever since, for years, reliving their detention over and over, fairly certain they are the last surviving members of the human race. Oh, and Principal Vernon is a zombie.

TLBC - The Cast Reads the flyer
Photo Credit: Bryan Carpender

The Last Breakfast Club is the first entry in a new planned series by producers and writers Kate Pazakis, creator of Rockwell’s popular Unauthorized Musical Parody Of series, and Bradley Bredeweg called The Fuse Project. The Fuse Project aims to combine classic characters and movies with new situations, resulting in a familiar and funny night of musical theater featuring popular music from the era of the films featured. In addition to the zombie twist, there is also a very surprising and fun appearance at the end of act one by a couple other classic film characters that I am choosing not to spoil. So, in case it isn’t clear by now, this is not your parents’ breakfast club, but boy, it sure is a lot of fun.

TLBC - Anna Grace Barlow as Claire - Max Ehrich as Andrew
Photo Credit: Bryan Carpender

Rockwell Table & Stage is one of the most unique venues in Los Angeles for showcasing new concepts and talent, and this is one of the most enjoyable shows I have seen there to date. As much as I love the Unauthorized Musical Parody series, sometimes the framing devices used to simply adapt one film can feel a little forced or expected. Because The Last Breakfast Club is essentially a brand new story, featuring a clever book by Pazakis and Bredeweg, it was very fresh, and marked the first time I wasn’t sure how a Rockwell musical was going to end. It was also a great way to revitalize and modernize the aspects of the original movie that have grown to be outdated. For example, Bender’s predatory behavior towards the girls is no longer encouraged, with the other characters frequently pointing out that rape culture is a known issue now. There is also a new embracing of homosexuality that leads to some intriguing new pairings that steal the show. Oh, and just wait for the reveal of exactly what caused the nuclear apocalypse, because it does not disappoint.

TLBC - Lana McKissack as Allison - closeup
Photo Credit: Bryan Carpender

As always at Rockwell, the talent in the show was first rate, and the cast of seven brought the house down again and again with their renditions of popular 80s songs. The show opens with R.E.M.’s “It’s the End of the World” as the characters bring us up to speed on the apocalypse outside, and they go on to belt out tunes by The Bangles, Bon Jovi, Dexys Midnight Runners, John Mellencamp, Journey, and others. Bender (understudy Taylor Boldt at the performance attended) got to show off his impressive pipes and bad boy vibes as he sang “Sweet Child O’ Mine” by Guns N’ Roses to a forgotten joint found in a locker. Allie (Lana McKissack, the vocal standout of the cast) and Andrew (Max Ehrich) work out some of their angst during “When Doves Cry” by Prince, and Allie also gets to duet with Claire (Anna Grace Barlow) on Bon Jovi’s “You Give Love a Bad Name.” Another funny musical moment is when the other students need to snap Allie out of a funk by singing “Come On Eileen,” except here it’s “Come On Allie.” Brainiac Brian (understudy Zack Colonna) got to play out a fun dynamic with the repressed school janitor (Damon Gravina), who has his own moment to shine on Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’.” Finally, Principal Vernon (Jimmy Ray Bennett) was hilarious as he played his conflict between wanting to protect his students and quite literally wanting to devour them. His ongoing annoyance with know-it-all Brian became one of the show’s best running jokes.

TLBC - Jimmy Ray Bennett as Vernon
Photo Credit: Bryan Carpender

Despite the updated take, fans of the original movie will not be disappointed. Iconic moments and lines are still included, and don’t worry, the night still ends with “Don’t You Forget About Me”—I mean, if it didn’t, it would practically be blasphemy. But the best part about The Last Breakfast Club is even if you’re lukewarm on the original film (I will admit, I rewatched it last week in anticipation of writing this review and I found it to be just okay), this adaptation will likely fix a lot of those issues, particularly in terms of aspects that haven’t aged well. Not only is this show another guaranteed fun night out at Rockwell, it’s their most creative experiment yet—an experiment that definitely succeeds.

The Last Breakfast Club runs through July 22nd at Rockwell Table & Stage. Performances are Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights with an afternoon brunch show on Sundays. Tickets range from $22 to $49 and can be purchased here. Please note that Rockwell policy also requires a 2 item minimum purchase of food and/or drinks per person, and these items can be enjoyed during the performance. For more information, follow @thelastbreakfastclub on Instagram and Facebook and @TLBC2017 on Twitter.


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