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Bunheads on ABC Family is the real deal (Review) May 28, 2012

Posted by ronannarbor in Entertainment, Musicals, TV.
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Set your DVR for June 11th — thats when ABC Family begins airing their new show BUNHEADS — and based on the pilot episode, the show does everything right that SMASH does so wrong week after week.

Broadway’s Sutton Foster stars as a ex-ballerina/Broadway dancer now washed up Vegas Showgirl who impulsively weds a kind middle-aged man who is infatuated with her (Alan Ruck) and they move to his home in seaside Paradise California, where (surprise) he lives with his mother (Kelly Bishop).

Mamma runs a dance school, and is an ex-ballerina herself. The upper-level girls of the same school make up the teenage cast in this (kind of) family friendly show. Like a lot of the fare on ABC Family, it’s suitable for mid-teens and up, but not necessarily for pre-teens. And that’s all the setup you need to know. There’s a major surprise at the end of the otherwise upbeat first episode, and it clearly spells out the direction the show is going to take.

But what is striking here is the writing (storytelling is always a strongpoint for ABC Families original family drama shows). Within one episode, all the major characters, conflicts, wants, and desires of each of the main characters has been spelled out. The musical numbers serve to enhance the show, not detract from it, and its just right.

Opening with a Vegas number (ironically, “Jet Set” from “Catch Me If You Can” — a nod-to or a shot-across-the-bow for Marc Shaiman?), the performances are integrated fully into the script — showgirls dance….ballerinas dance…and in an exquisite sequence in which Sutton teaches a Broadway audition combo, is more humanly realistic than anything on SMASH has been all season.

There is a great cast of young teenage performers, but this is Sutton Foster’s show, make no doubt about that — from sassy showgirl (“I live next door to a hooker”) to fish-out-of-water bride (“Oh, how very Turning Point”). ┬áKelly Bishop plays a delightfully droll and insightful mother-in-law (“If we don’t find that tutu, we’ll have to cut Clara which will make us look ridiculous”) uncovering nuanced layers of her character even in the first episode. Alan Ruck plays a warm, kind, and love-besotten Hubble.

If you are interested in auditioning for Bunheads, the casting information is here: DO NOT READ THIS RELEASE unless you want to see some major spoilers about the first several episodes. Suffice it to say that they are particularly looking for female dancers over the age of 18 that can play 15-17. Filming in LA.