The Roast of Buzz Lightyear

Written and performed by Kent Carney, Raanan Hershberg, Tyler Jackson, Sean Keller, Mandee McKelvey, Mark Parris, Patrick Passafiume, Darren Rodgers, & Sean Smith

Directed by Scot Atkinson

Review by Keith Waits

Entire contents copyright © 2015 by Keith Waits. All rights reserved

The Louisville Roasts are a series of ensemble performances by mostly local comedians in which they portray fictional characters within a particular cultural context: Spiderman, Harry Potter, and, when Christmas comes around, even Jesus.

Based on my first experience with The Roast of Buzz Lightyear, they are not for the feint of heart. Not that the profanity-laced invective is any less than one should expect of a proper ‘roast,’ but be forewarned that the host of characters from Pixar/Walt Disney films is no guarantee of a PG-rated production.

Woody the cowboy is the MC, and Mark Parris’ work in the role includes a fair vocalization of the amiable Tom Hanks cadence, but his recreation of Woody’s floppy but limited arm movement was perfect. Raanan Herschberg was an irascible Mr. Potato Head but I hesitate to identify more of the casting, since it is part of the fun to have these characters unveiled onstage. I will say that Sean Keller was an inspired choice as Randy Newman, providing musical commentary that begins to grate at the appropriate moment. Mr. Keller also has the duty to execute two other roles that should also remain a surprise. Not to be coy, but some of the choices are cleverly designed to frame the concept as more expansive than scabrous slings and arrows.

Each performer wrote their own material, and they consistently skewer both the character and the star that voiced them, so that Darren Rodgers’ Frozone is informed as much, if not more, by Samuel L. Jackson than the blue-clad iceman from The Incredibles. Sean Smith does terrific work here as a surprise guest whose place in animation history allows for a light dip into the surreal.

The energy and dynamic shifts some from performer to performer, which means the quality of the material can be slightly inconsistent as well, but there is a surprising unity of purpose all things considered, and this ensemble managed a professional delivery even when the jokes bombed, and were adept enough at turning the tide when that happened to almost make it not matter.

Marty Polio contributes sharp looking video components, and director Scot Atkinson ‘s set pieces are simple but effective.

This roast concept, as developed by Will Hardesty, Mr. Herschberg, and Mr. Atkinson, demonstrates an appeal for both fans of stand-up comedy and plays. There is structure and intention but it is overlaid with the anarchic, ribald sensibility that defines the young and hungry comic. There is little compromise for political correctness, and the fascination of comics pushing the envelope of good taste with fresh material is what makes these shows unique on the local theatrical landscape.

The Roast of Buzz Lightyear

August 6 & 7, 2015  @ 7:30 PM & 10:00 PM

The Bard’s Town
1801 Bardstown Road
Louisville, KY 40205


Keith[box_light]Keith Waits is a native of Louisville who works at Louisville Visual Art during the days, including being one of the hosts of PUBLIC on ARTxFM, but spends most of his evenings indulging his taste for theatre, music and visual arts. His work has appeared in Pure Uncut Candy, TheatreLouisville, and Louisville Mojo. He is now Managing Editor for[/box_light]