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Name: Adam Bernard
Home: Fairfield, Connecticut, United States
About Me: Entertainment journalist with 15+ years of experience. Supporter of indie music. Lover of day baseball, fringe movies, & chicken shawarma. Part time ninja. Nerdy, but awesome.
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Review - Bayside! The UnMusical!
Friday, May 11, 2012

If there was a Bible of 90s pop culture, Saved By The Bell would make up the bulk of the book of Genesis. In the beginning, there was Zack. When attempting to work with such a beloved piece of work, something that’s still, nearly 20 years after its run, being shown in reruns, things can get tricky. The fans are hardcore - I should know, I’m one of them - and they have a strong knowledge of even the most trivial of moments. This is what makes what Bob and Tobly McSmith have done with Bayside! The UnMusical! so spectacular. They’ve taken the characters, and plotlines, of Saved By The Bell, and turned them on their head in such a way as to show appreciation for the original material, while poking fun at everything about it.

Bayside! The UnMusical is loosely based on three episodes of Saved By The Bell - the one where they need to save The Max, the Miss Bayside pageant, and “Jessie’s Song,” where everyone’s favorite class valedictorian runner-up gets hooked on caffeine pills. While those episodes provide the structure of the show, no less than a dozen other episodes are made reference to.

The blind innocence that was so prevalent on the TV show has been ripped away from all of the characters except for Zack, who, for the most part, is the Zack we all remember. Slater is a raging homosexual, and sings about it a lot. Jessie is hooked on caffeine pills the entire time, and also makes a hilarious reference a future role actress Elizabeth Berkley took on. Lisa discovers she’s Black and has quite the reaction to it. Mr. Belding may have murdered his wife. Max is in some serious need of Zoloft. Screech... well, Screech is still Screech. Oh, and Kelly’s pregnant, but the baby isn’t Zack’s, it’s Jeff’s. In a fun conceit, no one ever actually says Jeff’s name. It’s a bit of a Lord Voldemort, “he who must not be named,” situation, which is a poetic nod to the fact that everyone considered Jeff to be the worst bad guy in the history of the show. Also, Kelly’s pregnancy magically disappears for a scene when she has to be in workout clothes. I consider that an homage to how Saved By The Bell routinely had characters that would be central to the story of an episode, only never to be seen again (Slater’s sister, Slater’s ex-girlfriend, Graham, etc.)

The music of Bayside! The UnMusical! has some fun twists in it, as well. In what is quite possibly the pinnacle for the writers, in regards to this show, they turn Mr. Belding’s catchphrase of “hey hey hey, what’s going on here” into a musical number by using the 4 Non Blondes song “What’s Up.” The result wraps so many layers of the 90s together that everyone who grew up in that era will appreciate it.

In addition to that number the girls sing about boys masturbating to Saved By The Bell, and it’s done to a song you’ll easily recognize if you’re a fan of the show. Slater sings about his unique love of wrestling, and Zack has a song about his ability to stop time.

There are a litany of fantastic random Saved By The Bell references thrown in throughout the show, which moves at a blistering pace. I honestly feel like I should try to see it again because I may have missed a joke while laughing at a previous one.

It’s clear from how well Bayside! The UnMusical! is written and acted that everyone involved has a healthy love and appreciation for both Saved By The Bell, and 90s pop culture in general. I can honestly say I had a smile on my face from the opening number all the way to the curtain call, which happens over a corpse. I can’t imagine anyone who loves the 90s not having a great time at this show.

For more info on the show check out baysidetheunmusical.com.

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