The Un-authorized Musical Parody of Stranger Things comes to Rockwell Table & Stage

If you’re still sad there was no Stranger Things premiere this year for Halloween, rest assured. To fill that void as we await another season, leave it to Los Angeles’ Rockwell Table and Stage to take us to the upside down. The popular series of un-authorized musical parodies (UMPO) has done it again with their latest spin on Stranger Things, the smash sci-fi Netflix original.

Those who know me, know how much I adore Stranger Things and the UMPO series. I knew the UMPO team had some big shoes to fill to pull this one off. I also attended on my birthday weekend with Mike as my date-who had yet to visit Rockwell Table and Stage. What was our verdict? Read on to find out.

Los Feliz Meets Hawkins, Indiana

Rockwell Table and Stage on Vermont in LA’s hipster land of Los Feliz is the perfect example of a Hollywood merger. Facelift, if you will. Once known only as Rockwell, the year 2012 found the popular restaurant taking over an adjoining bar and club, respectively, to become Rockwell Table and Stage. They never looked back, and today enjoy great success with an outdoor patio and bar in addition to their stage performances.

For a first timer arriving at Rockwell Table and Stage, you may be a bit perplexed. Tables, chairs and booths sit comfortably around a moderate sized stage. Due to the performers utilizing the front entrance, attendees enter through the back alley. We arrived early on the Saturday night to ensure we would be seated well among the stage action (we were left to the stage with hardly any obstructed views). While the stage set-up was minimal, a “Hawkins, Indiana” city limit sign proved we were in the right place.

In addition to the price of admission for the UMPO performance, Rockwell enforces a 2 item minimum policy. Luckily, this is quite easy to meet as Rockwell has a generous menu of American cuisine that includes burgers, flat breads and pasta. Most items can be prepared gluten-free, as well. They also make a mean drink like Rosie’s Riviter (Espalon tequila, fresh lime, canton ginger, honey, Mezcal) and Jim Got Down on his Knees (Rosé sparkling, Absolute pear vodka, St. Germaine elderflower).

The cast of UMPO’s Stranger Things. Photo: Bryan Carpender
Emma Hunton, best known as Elphaba from the 1st National tour of Wicked, as Joyce. Photo: Bryan Carpender
The Un-authorized Musical Parody of Stranger Things

While several beloved movies have gotten the UMPO treatment (Jurassic Park, Home Alone, Mean Girls), this was my first time seeing them tackle a TV show. Also new to the experience is the opportunity for the audience members to be even more involved with the show. Borrowing from the 1980’s book series, Choose Your Own Adventure, there were a few pivotal parts that got decided by a member plucked from the audience. The lucky guests got to roll the dice and find out what the future holds for the usually doomed Barb, and even how the story would conclude.

Something never lacking with an UMPO production is the talent of the cast. Founder and Producer, Kate Pazakis, has carved out a solid troupe with her UMPO productions with ‘regulars’ that have become favorites among the show goers and new, fresh faces to always keep the audience intrigued. Stranger Things is no exception. Emma Hunton as a frantic Joyce Byers brings the house down with her Broadway pipes on numbers like Blondie’s Call Me. While Disney Channel darling, Garrett Clayton, does an un-canny job at playing the dual roles of dorky 12 year old Dustin and Steve, the boy-toy hunk of Hawkins.

At first, I had some apprehension in regards to UMPO’s Lana McKissack as everyone’s favorite supernatural tween, Eleven. Although McKissack is a pint-size powerhouse, I’ve only seen her portray youngsters like Dani in Hocus Pocus and as the granddaughter in Jurassic Park. It would be nice to see UMPO let her branch out beyond the tween roles. My hesitation was lifted in Act 2 at her duet with Damon Gravina’s Mike. The love-lorn characters did a gorgeous rendition of Radiohead’s Creep that reminded us of that universal connection of feeling like an outcast.

Damon Gravino, Lana McKissack and Emma Hunton. Photo: Bryan Carpender
L to R: Eric Petersen (with Will Byers-the puppet!), Garrett Clayton, Gravino and Sterling Sulieman. Photo: Bryan Carpender
Stranger Things at Rockwell Extended Through the Month

Director Nathan Moore, along with Gregory Nabours (Musical Director) and Mallory Butcher (Choreographer) are reminders that Rockwell does not merely serve your burgers with a side of cabaret. Several cast and crew with UMPO have graced the stages of Broadway and on screen. As for the music, Stranger Things keeps it very 1980’s-tastic with tunes like Maniac, Time After Time and We Built This City.

An added touch to the Stranger Things song lineup are some great numbers paying homage to classic rock from David Bowie, The Beatles and Kansas.

Stranger Things has just been extended through December 2nd-which tells you it’s a popular one. Learn more and book your date before they sell out HERE. Since UMPO shows don’t run every night, make sure to check out the various shows Rockwell has coming up. Even Jeff Goldblum performs here quite often.

And, as for my husband’s first visit to Rockwell Table and Stage and experiencing the UMPO hilarity? Let me just say that we have a new fan! xo

(*Disclosure: I was a guest of the media on behalf of this review. All opinions are my own.)

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