A few weeks ago, I treated myself to the theater. I saw "90210! The Musical!" which was right up my 90s teen drama alley. I heard about "90210! The Musical!" when it first ran in New York. It sounded like a hoot. When they announced their run in Chicago, I was so excited. Christine Elise who played the notorious Emily Valentine on the original series hosted one of the NY shows, so I sent her a message asking if she was hosting any of the shows in Chicago. Turns out that she was hosting the first two nights. Ask and you shall receive.
I met Christine Elise at RewindCon and she was nice enough to let me interview her. I was happy to be reunited with one of my favorite characters from the show and get a new pic for my Valentine's Day cards.
I knew the show itself would be fun, but I don't love musicals so I wasn't sure how I was going to feel about it. Let me tell ya, if all musicals are like this, you can now call me a fan of musicals.
"90210! The Musical!" was hilarious. The cast was composed of seven main actors some of which played multiple roles. The role of Tori Spelling/Donna Martin was played by a dude, Caleb Dehne. Sure, it's a tad mean to have this whole role played by someone of the opposite sex, but it was still pretty funny. Andrea Zuckerman was also played by a dude (Seth Blum) who gets the award for the most roles in the show as he also played Steve Sanders, Valerie Malone and a lamp (more on that later).
The show mostly focused on the first four seasons (a.k.a. the good years). As a big fan of the show, timing of character events were not in order of how they originally happened on the show, but it all tied together in the end.
This show's costumes were on point even with the questionable wigs which actually made it funnier. Andrea's wig left her looking a little bit more like Weird Al than Gabrielle Carteris, but maybe her hair took a dive with all that commuting living out of district.
Some of my favorite scenes were of Dylan brooding, the "Steve Brings the Party" number, the "U4EA" number, and the scene of Dylan and Brenda doing it in the presence of 2 lamps after the Spring dance. You see, Dylan splurged for a fancy room with 2 lamps to take Brenda's V-card. However, my absolute favorite moment was Scott's death song. Scott was played by one of the writers, Bob. He did a beautiful side step with a shotgun in hand and then accidentally shot himself. Following this song were scenes of the gang at West Bev sitting on top of a box with a sign on it that read, "Scott's body."
At the end of Act 1, Brenda said "fuck it" and left for Paris. "90210! The Musical!" did a great job of meshing the characters with the real actors who portrayed them. The Brenda character was often fighting back from letting the inner bitch of Shannen Doherty taking over the good girl from Minnesota, Brenda Walsh. The Donna Martin character was referred to as Tori Spelling for the most part because although the real Tori Spelling "auditioned" for Beverly Hills, 90210, we all know that she was given a role because she was Aaron Spelling's daughter. During Act 1, the Tori character doesn't really say much all, but acts with great physical emotion crying in the background or with some great hair flips. In Act 2, she really makes herself known establishing herself with a relationship with David Silver and the plotline of getting smashed at prom possibly prohibiting her from graduating.
In Act 2, the love story between Dylan and Kelly heats up and we are introduced to one of Brandon's loves, Emily Valentine played by Ana Marcu who also played the role of Brenda. Ana Marcu has some pipes. That's for sure. Whether she is shimmying in the classic Spring dance dress or running around stage with a gas can, her voice didn't falter.
I won't say too much else about the actual plotline in case you plan on seeing it sometime because I heard a rumor that it has been picked up for a U.S. tour. Nice work, gang!
The cast of "90210! The Musical!" Think I could be an understudy?
Since Christine Elise hosted the show that night, she had a meet and greet after. That woman! She let everyone who wanted a picture with her, take a frickin' picture. Because I'm a business woman first, I purposely waited in the back of the line for a prime conversation opportunity. I made Christine and I BFF necklaces with one of my favorite quotes from the show.
We also snapped a pic with her lovely mother, Gail. I gave her mom a Valentine I made with the pic of Christine and I from RewindCon that says, "We'll be your Valentine." Presents for everyone!
The writers, cast, Christine and her mom let me tag along for drinks where we shared tales of fandom, other shows they have written and Christine even dished out a few behind the scenes info about the show. Did you know that the character of Emily Valentine was originally supposed to go to a "Julia Roberts type?" Think of how much differently everything would have been for manic pixie dreamgirls everywhere. I kid!
As if all of that wasn't enough, Caleb Dehne (Tori/Donna) answered a few questions for me about the show.
Caleb Dehne (a.k.a. Tori/Donna)
LeeAnn: How did you fully embody the character of Tori Spelling/Donna Martin?
Caleb: When I was offered the role, I immediately bought Tori's book 'STori Telling'. Because we refer to the character as Tori Spelling and not Donna (the writers did that because they felt that Tori's persona surpassed her character), I wanted to research Tori herself. (Of course I watched the show to mimic some classic Donna-isms and line delivery). Her book was so helpful in understanding who Tori is. It also helped me to know that she loves to make fun of herself, and can laugh at herself. (If you haven't, definitely read her book.) I also wanted to make Tori as glamorous as I could. We joke about her pretty heavily in the show, but the truth was she was a huge fashion icon during 90210's run. So I spoke with our costumer and creative team and pressed that we had to make her as glamorous as possible. During our Chicago run I was so lucky to have an amazing hair and make-up coordinator who helped make my Tori as beautiful as I had always wanted her to be.
LeeAnn: Have you heard anything from Tori or other original cast members about your portrayal of her?
Caleb: I did speak with Tori via Instagram once. I tagged her in everything when we were initially promoting the show, and one day I received a private message telling me to "Do her justice." We messaged back and forth for a bit, which was so sweet of her to do.
LeeAnn: What was your favorite part about playing a role of the 9-oh gang?
Caleb: Oh gosh, I loved getting to mimic and comment on some of those iconic 90210 moments. The writers, Bob and Tobly, parodied some of the dialogue so well that it became exciting when I got to say a line that was directly from the tv show. I also loved dramatically sobbing in the background of scene for no reason, other than nuance.
LeeAnn: What other characters have you played in drag?
Caleb: I have actually never before done drag. It was particularly rough when I was in charge of doing Tori's make-up for our NYC run. Again, I am so thankful for all the people who made my Tori pretty. And I really believe she looked great. Which is saying something, because I am not a natural beauty. ;) (Editor's note: Pffffttt... he totally is)
LeeAnn: Is the show coming back or going on tour?
Caleb: It has been confirmed that the show will be going on tour. I don't know much more than that, but I did hear rumor that it would most likely stop back in Chicago.
For all those 9-oh fans, run, spin, and shuffle step to see "90210! The Musical!" when it goes on tour. It's a great night out and you'll get some good ab exercise in with all of the chuckles. The main question that remains for me though is to fully embody the role of Steve Sanders, how many Ferraris did the actor have to eat?