BY MICHAEL SOMMERS
Now nearly 2,500 years young, the battle-of-the-sexes comedy of Lysistrata and her chums rarely ceases to seduce audiences.
The latest winning incarnation is “Lysistrata Jones,” a bright and bouncy new musical that bounded into the Walter Kerr Theatre on Wednesday.
Staged last summer in a gym at the Judson Memorial Church downtown, the musical is a breezy diversion that may be too lightweight for long-term Broadway popularity but nevertheless is a charmer in many ways.
“Xanadu” scribe Douglas Carter Beane’s latest raid on the ancient classics expertly delivers plenty of laughs, perky songs, sexy goings-on and a stage smoking with cute young hotties performing it all with ease. There’s even a nice message regarding female empowerment. What’s not to like?
Transporting Aristophanes’ situation to a modern-day university where the basketball team always loses because the guys simply aren’t trying, Beane’s amusing story develops differently than the anti-war original but its conflict remains the same: Lyistrata talks her cheerleader comrades into withholding sex from the slacker team members until they win a game.
Hormones rage as the guys resist the girls’ “sex jihad,” but all is happily resolved after two hours of light entertainment driven by Lewis Flinn’s exuberant score and director-choreographer Dan Knechtges’ swift staging. The rhythmic, catchy music is an upbeat mix of contemporary pop styles that’s somewhat more sophisticated than the “High School Musical” standard.
The show’s saucy dances, loose attitudes and bawdy byplay are too naughty for younger viewers, but “Lysistrata Jones” offers otherwise audiences an agreeably gleeful time. Beane neatly delineates his multi-culti class of college kids and salts their doings with numerous gags. Flinn’s enjoyable tunes propel the action both on and off the basketball court, where Knechtges’ vigorously athletic choreography especially shines.
The talented 12-member company, often clad in abbreviated campus fashions, is led by adorable Patti Murin as the plucky Lysistrata and woofy Josh Segarra as the confused squad captain. Lindsay Nicole Chambers and Jason Tam are funny as artsy intellectuals caught up in the intramural escapades. Dressed in red-and-gold goddess mode, a hearty Liz Mikel confidently guides the proceedings as an otherworldly influence and later comes down to earth as the ever-wise madam of a handy brothel.
Cheerful in shades of orange and blue, an airy setting designed by Allen Moyer fluently accommodat es the action and further provides an upstage ledge where seven musicians turn up the volume.
Unlike its more nobly-intended original, the sporty “Lysistrata Jones” may not be a show for the ages, but this energetic, good-natured romp surely brightens up a Broadway season that’s short on original musicals.
“Lysistrata Jones” continues at the Walter Kerr Theater, 219 W. 48th St. New York. Call (212) 239-6200 or visit www.lysistratajones.com.