Theater Review: The Unauthorized Musical Parody of Bridesmaids at Rockwell Table & Stage

UMPO Bridesmaids - Bubbico Stilliens and Lander
Photo Credit: Bryan Carpender

Who’s ready to party? The Unauthorized Musical Parody of Bridesmaids, the latest entry in producer Kate Pazakis’s Unauthorized Musical Parody Of (UMPO) series, opened this weekend at LA’s Rockwell Table & Stage and creates the perfect atmosphere for a celebratory night out. Co-directed by Christopher Youngsman and Tony Award winner (and UMPO alum) Marissa Jaret Winokur, this take on the 2011 hit comedy Bridesmaids feels more focused than some previous parodies in the series, emphasizing fun over unnecessary details and featuring the same high level of talent that always makes Rockwell shows such a delight.

UMPO Bridesmaids - Annie Toast
Photo Credit: Bryan Carpender

Bridesmaids tells the story of Annie (Natalie Lander), a single 35-year-old recovering from the financial failure of her business and passion project, a bakery. While she is at her rock bottom, her longtime best friend Lillian (Molly Stilliens) gets engaged, and of course appoints Annie maid of honor. She immediately clashes with stuck-up bridesmaid Helen (Aynsley Bubbico), Lillian’s fiance’s boss’s rich wife, who is everything Annie is not. Their personalities and visions for the events leading up to the big day clash wildly as Annie struggles to get her own life together without destroying her friendship with Lillian in the process.

UMPO Bridesmaids - Aynsley Bubbico as Helen
Photo Credit: Bryan Carpender

Previous parodies in the UMPO series have featured various framing devices—for example, in Mean Gurlz, the story began with a narrator character inviting friends and family over to reenact his favorite movie in his basement. Clueless chose a similar approach, but got even weirder when the characters ended up going down a confusing rabbit hole into the actual film. Refreshingly, Bridesmaids does not employ any such storytelling techniques, and instead just relays the plot of the film in a straightforward way through a combination of self-aware dialogue written by Pazakis (“one day you and I are going to fight all of these demons,” Megan says to Annie, referencing the original actresses’ roles in last year’s Ghostbusters reboot) and popular songs by the likes of Demi Lovato, Pink, and Taylor Swift (musical direction by Gregory Nabours).

UMPO Bridesmaids - Michael Thomas Grant and Natalie Lander hookup
Photo Credit: Bryan Carpender

The subtleties of the plot are condensed and glossed over in favor of paying service to the movie’s most memorable scenes and lines, which requires a working knowledge of the original film but is perfectly adequate for the light-hearted feeling of the parody. There are little to no transitions between scenes, and some of the details of Annie’s life, such as her unsatisfying day job at a jewelry store, are left out entirely. The setting is moved to Los Angeles, allowing for location-specific jokes such as Annie living above a garage in Van Nuys. The cast, a mix of Rockwell veterans and newcomers, was fantastic. Lander, who was mostly recently Gretchen Wieners in UMPO Mean Gurlz, gets to take on a much larger role here and nails Annie’s awkwardness and desperation. Stilliens, one of the newcomers to the series, is a perfect Lillian, with mannerisms eerily similar to Maya Rudolph’s, and gets to show off some impressive flute-playing skills, while Bubbico masters Helen’s icy demeanor and snooty attitude.

UMPO Bridesmaids - Desi Dennis-Dylan and Natalie Lander - Fight Song
Photo Credit: Bryan Carpender

The supporting cast is just as wonderful and everyone gets at least one moment to shine, although in some cases that did not feel like enough. I wanted more of movie scene-stealer Megan, particularly because actress Desi Dennis-Dylan is so funny and talented. She only has one big musical moment, which was surprising considering Melissa McCarthy was Oscar-nominated for her original portrayal and made the role such a fan-favorite. But, the extremely literal take on Rachel Platten’s “Fight Song” was a perfect tie-in to the “female fight club” line in the movie.

UMPO Bridesmaids - Nathan Moore and Natalie Lander 2
Photo Credit: Bryan Carpender

The bridal party is rounded out by Lillian’s confident, cynical cousin Rita (Nohely Quiroz) and young, naive friend Becca (Ashley Argota), who wears colorful, youthful outfits corresponding to the jokes made about movie counterpart Ellie Kemper going on to play Kimmy Schmidt. While this is very much a female-driven story, the men were also scene-stealers in their own right. UMPO regular Michael Thomas Grant was hilarious as Annie’s obnoxious, self-centered fling Ted and Nathan Moore drew warm responses from the audience as Annie’s charming love interest Officer Rhodes.

UMPO Bridesmaids - Molly Stilliens - wedding dress
Photo Credit: Bryan Carpender

From big group numbers “Single Ladies,” “I Say a Little Prayer,” and “Get This Party Started” to Annie and Helen’s infamous toast battle devolving into a performance of Eminem’s “Lose Yourself,” the song choices in the show appealed to not only the millennial demographic, but the unique, interactive atmosphere at Rockwell. Depending on where you’re sitting, you might even find yourself getting married to Lillian at the end of the show. Be warned—if bathroom humor is not your thing, a lot of time and a lot of impressively-coordinated gross sound effects are spent on the disgustingly memorable “food poisoning at the bridal shop” scene. This all goes down to an apt mash-up of Ludacris’s “Move Bitch” and “Let it Go” from Frozen, the latter of which is beautifully sung by Argota, also a standout in UMPO Hocus Pocus and whom I hope to see starring in one of these parodies before long. And, of course, we end with “Hold On” by Wilson Phillips, followed by the classic “All You Need is Love.” If you are looking for some lighthearted fun, a lot of laughs, and some top notch singing, The Unauthorized Musical Parody of Bridesmaids is the perfect choice for your next girls night or date night, and I can’t wait to see what the UMPO series has in store next.

The Unauthorized Musical Parody of Bridesmaids runs through September 17th 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 about this show and upcoming shows, follow @umposeries on social media.


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