Pat Benatar & Shakespeare Bring Invincible to the Wallis

I still remember the first time I saw Pat Benatar. It was the fourth of July weekend in 1995. VH1 (does anyone remember that channel?) was having their annual A to Z weekend. They alphabetically played music videos from nearly every big musical artist name. When You Better Run began, I was taken with this feisty lady with a big voice.

My mother told me it was Pat Benatar and that she remembered when she taught in the early 1980s a lot of her students idolized Pat. I continued to watch her videos as the marathon played them all. Love is a Battlefield, Shadows of the Night, We Belong. I was hooked and have been a fan ever since.

Benatar has been writing anthems and ballads for over 40 years with her husband, Neil Giraldo. Given the run of successful musicals as of late inspired by rock icons, it’s Pat and Neil’s turn to lend their hand to Broadway.

Invincible the Musical

Invincible the Musical is currently having its world premiere at the Wallis. It’s a modern, new take on Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet with a book by Bradley Bredeweg. The music features, you guessed it, the most beloved songs from Pat Benatar. The musical duo have also written several new songs for the production.

I got to the Wallis in Beverly Hills a bit frazzled. Arriving by 7:30 from Ventura County was an adventure. One that included curves and swirls through Benedict Canyon and Mulholland Drive. Despite it being near showtime, I thankfully arrived with some time to spare and meet up with Julie. A beautiful (and giant) Christmas tree greeted me to my left.

I recently saw Broadway’s Jagged Little Pill, with the songs from Alanis Morrisette’s album. So, I thought I knew what to expect with Invincible. While Jagged Little Pill or even Mamma Mia is much more of a “jukebox musical,” Invincible makes the hit songs their own. This offers new spins on the classics that can be heard throughout the show.

Shakespeare Meets Pat Benatar

Hell is for Children opened the production, and sets the mood for an intense journey through a post-war Verona. I think most of us are familiar with Romeo and Juliet. I’ll admit I’m still not a huge Shakespeare fan (Oscar Wilde is more my style) but love the fact of how truly timeless his tales are. I love that I’ve seen dozens of pieces from movies to plays inspired by his work. Even 80’s anthems from Pat Benatar.

The cast is stellar and powerful as an ensemble. Kay Sibal makes for a delicate yet headstrong Juliet. Khamary Rose has a great stage presence and the chemistry is natural between the star-crossed lovers. Their intimate rendition of We Belong captivated the entire audience. Brennin Hunt shines as the villainous Paris, a true “love-to-hate” character. The demanding anthem, Treat Me Right, proved to be an ideal show-stopper for Hunt.

Invincible at the Wallis

Invincible comes to life under the direction of Tiffany Nichole Greene. Greene has brought an incredible and thoughtful balance to a tragic tale of love and hate. The characters all have a soul and I found myself trying to think as if in their positions. Arnel Sancianco (scenic designer) has created a modest and urban space with minimal props. Galen Hooks, who has an unmistakable style and movement she brings to her work, leads as choreographer. Hooks’ style is heavy on modern and interpretive inspiration. She has an impressive resume and has worked with countless A-names (Britney, Janet) and choreographed at the Oscars to Broadway. Seeing her work performed live makes even the most non-dancing people (like myself) feel inspired to move.

Invincible is at the Wallis through December 18th. I hope next year to report they are on their way to Broadway. The show runs about an hour and 45 minutes without an intermission. Whether you are a Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo, Shakespeare, or theatre fan (or all of the above), Invincible is a great musical to be able to say you saw its world premiere. xo