Did you watch Saved by the Bell when you were growing up? I loved it and my watching of it was so relentless that my mom created a nickname for it. She called it, “That ‘Stupid Show.’” She thought it was terrible.
Well, few things stand the test of time and the show doesn’t. I have tried to watch it as an adult and I cringe at the poorly strung together plot and all the problematic elements. But, you know, it was a kids’ show in the 90s. It wasn’t meant to stand the test of time.
Except now! National Lampoon’s Bayside! The Musical! is a musical parody of Saved by the Bell and it makes fun of the show for two hours. You’re in store for a lot of exaggerated aspects of the show and a ton of sexual innuendo. They take subtleties from the show and make them overtures. For example, the sexual tension between A.C. Slater and Zack, and the exploitation of the underage sexuality of the female characters.
I’ve seen Bayside! The Musical! three times in a couple of different incarnations and it gets better and better. With the addition of Dustin Diamond to the cast—the actor who famously portrayed Screech on the show and has since made some questionable life choices—for a limited engagement, I had to see it again.
I love how the show keeps getting reworked, and the jokes keep getting funnier. The same actor who has been playing Screech kept the role, Dustin plays himself, a janitor at Bayside High. He has a great musical number. Dustin was really funny and did a great job making fun of himself but also with a humility and grace you might not expect of a child celebrity who is more well-known nowadays for his antics and not his talent.
I had fun before, during and after the show. The theater pumps up the 90s jams while you’re being seated and during intermission. Many people sang along to Tearin’ Up My Heart. After the show there’s a meet and greet with Dustin Diamond!
Dara couldn’t resist the chance to get a photo with Dustin so we waited through the opening night crowd while I chatted with Bob and Tobly McSmith (the writers and band leaders of the show).
It wasn’t on the record, so I won’t tell you all of the things I learned except this one tidbit—the caffeine pills Jessie Spano famously takes in the show have always been a running joke in the musical. I was shocked at the volume of the pills in this incarnation of the show—easily three times as many as the last time I saw it! The pills they use are tiny, white, freeze dried marshmallows (similar to those found in Lucky Charms). The production buys them in bulk but I’d love to figure out exactly how much goes into a truly exuberant Jessie Spano performance.
April Kidwell is incredible as Jessie Spano. She also played Nomi Malone in the musical version of Showgirls!
I am asked a lot by folks visiting New York City what they should do when they come to town. Obviously NYC is known for theater and I love quirky theater that pushes buttons. Plus, everyone back home who is a SBTB fan will be totally stoked to hear about the musical. And meeting Dustin Diamond!
John Duff still plays Slater and he fills out a singlet quite well!
The website for the show often has discount codes for tickets, and there are group arrangements that can be made for things like bachelorette parties. Plus, it’s right on St Mark’s Place so there are limitless delicious places for tea and food nearby. I suggest Crif Dogs, Puddin’ and Physical Graffitea. You can check out another post I wrote about hanging out around St. Mark’s Place here.