With unwanted hugs, giant dildos, and Perez Hilton, National Lampoon Presents: Full House the Musical! A Tanner Family Parody! shocks without a discernible message.
National Lampoon Presents: Full House the Musical! A Tanner Family Parody!
Randolph Theatre (736 Bathurst Street)
It’s the opening night of National Lampoon Presents: Full House the Musical! A Tanner Family Parody!, a title which has so many moving parts, I’m not entirely sure what I’m about to see. The two exclamation marks in the title are not a mistake, but rather an indication that the whole title should be shouted. After seeing the show, I realize this is an accurate reflection of the production.
It’s half an hour to showtime and an all-white crowd mingles outside the Randolph Theatre, taking selfies in front of a 10-foot vinyl poster and posting them to Instagram. Inside, paper programs have been replaced by an “Interactive Program” accessed via a QR code sticker on the seat. Since I don’t have a QR scanner, I type the supplied URL into my browser, and the website gives me a 404 error. The lights dim and the audience is asked to put away their phone. Oh well.
The male understudy takes the stage and asks the crowd if it’s excited, and promptly informs us that Perez Hilton, the celebrity blogger, is the star. It’s a fact you couldn’t avoid if you wanted to: his somewhat-sinister face is the first thing you see on the show’s website, and “STARRING PEREZ HILTON” dominates most of the banner outside, as well as all promotional material. The understudy then tells us we’re all family now, and instructs us to hug our neighbour. The three-quarters-full audience looks around. Luckily, I have an empty seat next to me, but before I know it, a stranger has pushed her torso into my neck and whispers, “We’re family now.” She seems to be enjoying herself, but for me, this show already has too much personal-space invasion. And it’s going to get worse.
The cast takes the stage and waves to the audience before jauntily marching into the aisles to hug audience members in the front two rows. They’re not hugs as much as a quick smashing of bodies: it’s important to stay on cue but still give the illusion of affection. I shrink in my second-row aisle seat, hoping my body language indicates that I wish to receive no more “hugs” from strangers. It doesn’t work. Hilton, still singing, shoves his wigged head into my face. He smells like cologne and baby powder, and I feel his spittle on my clavicle. He doesn’t make eye contact. It definitely feels like I’m part of a family, just one where you run away from your sweaty relative coming in for an unwanted hug.
The show is simultaneously breakneck and stagnant: it hops through existing plot sequences from all seasons of the show erratically, but still finds five-minute chunks of time to sing songs about incestuous relationships and having to “blow your dad.” It often feels like they go a mile for every punch-line, then tie it up and drag it behind the car for another mile.
After the first few scenes, I find myself wondering who this show is for. Full House ran from 1987 until 1995, meaning its original demographic is in their mid-to-late 30s now. This is, largely, who fills the theatre, but the opening scenes feel too simplistic for an adult audience. However, I become fully aware that this is not for children after they make references to a gay sex shop called Fudgepackers.
Despite the show being a torrid race through the seasons of the original family-friendly show, it is packed with incongruous jokes about fetal alcoholism, queef solos, and big black dildo/puppet sex interludes. However, there are glimmering moments of sheer cleverness in both script and set. Despite the broadness of the majority of the jokes, there were quippy one-liners and a remarkably clever use of props (including three gold picture frames that instantly transformed into pop-up top hats for a dance number) to help keep the show from diving headfirst into sheer bawdy insanity—but this happens eventually anyway.
The second act is more fever-dream than musical, with the maximum crudeness shoehorned in. It feels like the creators’ intentions are solely to shock the audience into laughter, but without the clever moments needed to provide levity. Instead, the second act, marketed as more “outrageous and over-the-top”, feels like a senseless barrage of needless curses and heavy-handed sexual innuendo.
The ending, by its own admission, is “ham-fisted,” as myriad plotlines struggle to come together and resolve themselves. Danny Tanner, who insisted on being called Bob Saget for the majority of the show without any explanation, sits the family down and says that all will be fine if they believe in the power of family. In classic sitcom fashion, everything is rectified with a good “Dad Talk” about sticking together, and the characters struggling with everything from an eating disorder to the sinister effects of child stardom shirk their issues to smile along and sing along that it’s just easier to be happy.
It’s a strangely self-aware admission of their failures to provide a meaningful ending, but, labeled as a “parody,” the show manages to dance around the lack of substance by using the label as a crutch. The show ends with another round of hugs from the cast members, all of whom are now soaked with sweat. If this is what family is, then I want to be estranged.