Just when you think Ryan Landry must be running out of ideas, the leader of the Gold Dust Orphans unleashes the gods. “Greece,” playing at Machine through June 4, melds “Clash of the Titans” with the musical “Grease,” and the results provide Olympic-size laughs.
The plot zigs and zags hilariously between the heroic deeds demanded by the denizens of Mount Olympus and the high school hijinks of the teen gangs, the Pink Sirens and, you guessed it, the Teen Titans. The hook is that Zeus (Larry Coen) banishes his daughter Cassandra, a.k.a. Sandy (Taryn Cagnina), to the hell that is high school, as punishment for falling for a human, Danny Zeuso (MacMillan Leslie). Before you can say Peggasissy (and you will), Landry has cleverly threaded in the plot from “Clash of the Titans,” complete with a chariot race (with an amazing video behind the competitors), and appearances from the fearsome Kraken, Cyclops, and Medusa.
Rather than rely on the song list from “Grease” for his signature sendups, Landry taps just two of those numbers and then selects songs that fit the era, including “Let’s Go to the Hop” — the perfect prelude for the battle between the Teen Titan and the Cyclops — “Crying,” an excellent showcase for Cagnina’s voice and a truly astonishing accompanying video, and my favorite, “Cry Me a River,” this time referring to the river Styx (“crossing that river and you’re screwed”).
Landry, director Coen, and musical director Tim Lawton have also refreshed the Gold Dust Orphans cast with a group of mostly new faces, all of whom have huge vocal talent. In addition to Leslie’s charmingly goofy Danny Zeuso and Cagnina’s sweet Sandy, there’s Vanessa Calantropo as the brash Brizzo, who delivers a beautifully bluesy number; Elliot Norton Award-winning actress Kiki Samko as a Marilyn Monroe-like Daphne; and her real-life husband Michael Underhill, a face to watch on the Boston theater scene, as a high-flying Icarus. Throughout, the newbies know they have a lot to live up to, and raise their game with great acting chops and challenging vocalizing, including an impressive bit of soloing on “Easy to Be Hard” from Calantropo, Cagnini, Malari Martin, and Meghan Edge.
Don’t worry: Several Gold Dust Orphan favorites have featured roles, including Landry, Coen, Lawton, and Qya Marie, who nearly stops the show as the sassy Aphrodite. Scott Martino, who created the array of jaw-dropping costumes, performs double duty as the delightfully dangerous Pandora Spox. Just when you thought you might take a breath from the nonstop action, the ever-changing Glitterpuss Dancers appear and wow with creative choreography and some of Martino’s most inventive costumes.
“Greece” also includes the kinds of touches the Gold Dust Orphans are known for, including toga-clad puppets, an appearance by Elvis (Landry) to provide musical battle commentary, a flying horse that can’t quite get off the ground, and that supersize Kraken.
What makes this production of “Greece” so outstanding is the entire ensemble’s no-holds-barred performances, combined with Landry’s brilliance at pulling together such a broad palette of stories, images, and cultural references, not to mention a few bawdy jokes for good measure. You’ll be caught by surprise all over again by the delightfully different Gold Dust Orphans and this fantastic and funny “Greece.”
By Ryan Landry. Presented by the Gold Dust Orphans. At Machine, 1254 Boylston St., Boston, through June 4. Tickets $39.99-$100. www.brownpapertickets.com/event/2737766Terry Byrne can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.