So, I went to Theatre 80 at St. Marks Place to see Bayside! The Musical! All I had to know was that it was a parody on Saved by the Bell and I was sold. This was years in the making. The many hours I spent unashamedly watching reruns, swooning over Mario Lopez and Mark-Paul Gosselaar in equal measure, rooting for Zack and Kelly, and laughing at Screech's crazy antics, were finally being rewarded. It was my first time officially stepping inside Theatre 80. Previous to this show, I had only ever passed by it while hanging out with friends, so it was a bit surreal when I did enter, pick up my ticket, and make my way to my seat. As I reviewed my playbill, my thoughts went back to the table in the lobby full of brightly colored snap bracelets, inflatable beach balls, and other Saved by the Bell merchandise, and I could not for the life of me recall the last time I so badly wanted to spend money on overpriced accessories at the theatre.
A staff member from the theatre cleared his throat and came on stage to promote the merchandise on sale in the lobby. After his little speech, he asked who wanted a beach ball, waving it tauntingly in his hands. I leapt from my seat and screamed, "Me!", causing the entire audience to stare at me like I was nuts (I plead the 5th). The man then served the green and white striped beach ball in my direction and I could barely contain my excitement when it fell into my waiting hands like it belonged there. I clung to my newly won prize for dear life and sat back in my seat with a superior smile on my face, waiting for the show to begin.
As the cast appeared on stage, there were a few minutes where I was half convinced that the actors were the same actors from the television show. Sanity returned to me and I realized that there was no way those could have been the same actors from a show that ended over twenty years ago, but I still found myself impressed at how well the actors embodied the characters I loved so much.
While the humor would not have been lost on those who were unfamiliar with the television show, my experience was certainly enhanced due to my knowledge of each and every episode. And all around me were avid Saved by the Bell fans, many decked out in the costumes of their favorite characters, and all of them unified in shared appreciation of the parody of one of their favorite shows.
Bayside! The Musical! was kind of like one huge inside joke that the entire audience was privy to.