Review: KISS' stinker of a movie in theater form

Categories: Arts

Members of the KISS Army and lovers of so-bad-it's-good '70s kitsch were served a heaping, stinking scoop of comedic theater Friday night at the Regional Arts Commission.

The St. Louis Shakespeare's Magic Smoking Monkey Theatre production of KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park debuted at the Regional Arts Commission on Delmar Boulevard.

Blue-haired rebels to pseudo-intellectual hipsters, and a smattering of the middle-age attendees watched the theatrical production of the made-for-TV movie, originally released in 1978.

Hidden away in the side-room of the studio theater was a treat for the ears, nose and throat – if you like to sing along and the smell of sweat in the evening.

The story of KISS Meets loosely follows Phantom of the Opera. Only in the KISS version, the setting is...wait for it...a theme park.

The plot goes like this: Theme park engineer Abner Devereaux tries to destroy KISS, because money for his park projects is being used to fund a KISS concert. During his quest for revenge on KISS (who are super heroes with super powers in this narrative, naturally), Devereaux kidnaps Sam, a park employee, and turns him into a mindless robot that helps Devereaux steal four talismans that give KISS magical powers. Follow us, here. So The plot thickens. It goes on from there.

The Magic Smoking Monkey Theatre boasts a specialization in strange and wacky theater, but this audience member was skeptical that even the funniest troupe could turn the cheesy, made-for-TV movie into something other than what it was – embarrassing. However, the group squeezed some laughs out of this skeptic, who was born ten years outside of the KISS craze.

For those in the mood for song, sprinkled throughout the play were several lip-synched performances by KISS, including: ''Shout It Out Loud'' and ''Rock-n-Roll All Night,'' where the group encouraged everyone to sing aloud and tossed beach balls into the audience. I sang the parts of the songs I knew, and took a whack at the beach ball. Sorry to the poor lady in the front row. Needless to say, as the night progressed, I felt more like a part of the KISS Army.

Even when Paul Stanley/Starchild, played by Jim Ousley, ran up the aisle dancing and flinging sweat to and fro, it was hard not to admit he made the show with his model-like poses and memorable one-liners. Thanks to him, I'll now have to resist the urge to shout, ''Starchild, starpower'' to unsuspecting passersby.

My only disappointment was that at the end of the night when Gene Simmons/The Demon, played by Chris ''Mr.'' Jones, called for all those dressed to be in the KISS Army to come to the stage. One guy ran up unopposed and won – by wearing a camouflage jacket with KISS splayed across the back, because two other guys dressed in the audience were too scared to go onstage. Pity.

Next time, I'll make sure to bring my platform shoes and skin-tight leather attire.

For more information on show times for KISS Meets, click here.

- Nikole Brown

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