If you're into the slash-and-spatter genre, you may find the title of “Serial Killer Barbie” at the NoHo Arts Center a bit of a misnomer. The belated slayings seem designed more to accommodate the attention-grabbing concept rather than as an organic progression of plot.
However, if you can ignore the occasional unwieldiness of Colette Freedman's book, which includes an awkward framing device that should be immediately jettisoned, you may find this world premiere musical at the Noho Arts Center a very hot ticket indeed.
The action, which transpires as “rounds” in an ongoing boxing match, traces a class of kids from first grade through high school. Protagonist Barbie (Kelley Dorney) longs to join the “Debbies,” the sultry trio that rules the school.
But to curry favor, Barbie must betray her gentle gay best friend, Bruce (Alex Robert Holmes) – and in her shame, plots revenge against her mean girl antagonists, who expire of various causes – at least one of which seems more accidental than deliberate.
In contrast to the book, Freedman's lyrics (additional lyrics by Nickella Moschetti) are notably facile. Moschetti, the show's superb musical director and leader of the onstage band, contributes memorable original music that runs the gamut from wistful solos to show-stoppers.
Choreographer Anne-Marie Osgood makes the most of her youthfully energetic performers, and director Ronnie Marmo wraps – or is that warps? – it all up into one delectably eccentric package.
The entire cast is worthy of individual mention, with Dorney and Holmes spearheading the general excellence. Kacey Coppola plays ditzy Debby, Marti Maley is perfect Debbie, while Katy Jacoby rules the roost as malevolent Debbi.
Clad in Susie Campos' colorful costumes, the cast includes Cy Creamer, Nicole Fabbri, Jillian Fonacier, Christopher Kelly and Bradley Estrin. All are terrific and should be seen.
"Serial Killer Barbie,” NoHo Arts Center, 11136 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood. 8 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays, 7 p.m. Sundays. Ends Dec. 21. $30. www.plays411.com/serialkillerbarbie. Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes.