Review by ANDREW JOSEPH PEREZJune 11, 2018 certified reviewer
What I liked
I found out about this show when I met some of the cast in the hallways of The Broadwater theaters between rehearsals. Not having seen Conor Hanney’s previous work (Divorce: The Hip-Hop Musical and Stranger Things: The Musical Tribute), I wasn’t sure what to expect. I figured there was a high likelihood that the neurodiversity of the cast (half the actors being neurodiverse and the other half neurotypical) would lend itself well to creating a fun and heartwarming show full of acceptance and Capital-C-Community, but I feared the inevitable weak spot. Would the rhymes be lackluster? Would the story sit back and rest on tired tropes and cliches? Would it fall into the dreaded trap of only cranking the commitment dial up to an amorphous 7 rather than maxing that baby out to 11?
I am elated to say: not only was my assumption that Best Buddies would be the hilarious and heartwarming show I hoped it would be, but even in the very first minutes of the show, all my trepidations were swept away as I had the pleasure of enjoying every single second that followed. The rhymes were slick, the actors were in it to win it, and the script snuck in some twists and turns that shook up the tired tropes to create a totally entertaining, totally hilarious, and totally human story.
The three stooges of the show, Craig Jaffe, Kevin Hanney Jr, and John “JT” Tucker Jr, kept the audience roaring throughout while Gabe Greenspan’s Gastonian charm provided the perfect counterpoint to Ike Flitcraft’s and Kelsey Goeres’ touching young love story. Jacob Braun’s comedic timing and sledgehammer sass were outstanding, and the beatboxing by DJ Shaun (Shaun Fisher) was so crisp it was easy to forget that he wasn’t a digital track. The battle for the Prom Queen crown between the reigning favorite Shannon Dieriex and conniving Callie Ott, crystalized by Ott’s soaring vocals in her and Chloe Houghton’s villainously anthemic song “Two Birds, One Stone” brought the house down, while Houghton’s sincerity and earnest wish for acceptance and an end to all the bickering left everyone moved.
What I didn't like
There’s not much I’d change in this production. Between the total commitment to the comedy on the part of the actors and the downright Lin-Manuelian lyricism of Hanney’s raps, it’s a show that stands proudly on its own.
My overall impression
Best Buddies: The Hip-Hop Musical is exactly what the Hollywood Fringe Festival is all about!