The other night, my wife and I took in one of the most enjoyable evenings of our lives, and spent the night with the Wild Women of Planet Wongo. Described on their website as “an immersive sci-fi comedy,” the show is 90+ minutes of craziness, costumes, and hilarious songs that allows guests to be a part of the performance. Combining the classic sci-fi vibe of the late 50s and early 60s, the intentional cheesiness of Star Trek, and catchiness of hit off-broadway musicals, Wild Women of Planet Wongo is a show like nothing you’ve seen before.
Written by Ben Budick, Steve Mackes, and Dave Ogrin as a stage musical, Ogrin soon re-envisioned Wongo in its current interactive form. Performed for the first time in 2015 in Bushwick, Brooklyn, the show was moved to Parkside Lounge in New York City for weekly performances throughout 2016. Its success there led to a weekend run through the end of March.
Opening with two bumbling astronauts, Ric Rogers (Nick Mangione) and Louie LaFever (Howie Schaal), their ship crashes on the infamous Planet Wongo, where legend and song tells of sex-crazed alien females. The women of Wongo; in costumes that harken back to classic Star Trek, live by three rules; captivate, ovulate, and consume mate… although that last one may not be right. Soon they are captured by the women of Wongo, led by Queen Rita (Amanda Nicholas). The songs are terrific, the cast thrusts themselves into these roles, and even the intermissions are super fun, with Wongo women leading contests and activities throughout. A hit for Bachelorette Parties, they included the bride-to-be in the festivities. And dare I forget, the Wongo-tinis, a wonderfully delicious drink sold at the bar; one drink ticket is included in price of admission.
We got to speak with some of the cast after the show. Sage Buchalter (Wongette), Amanda Nicholas (Queen Rita), and Nick Mangione (Ric Rogers) joined Geeks of Doom to discuss how they got involved in the show, and what they go through to ready a performance.
Geeks of Doom: What was your audition like?
Sage Buchalter: I went in and did 32-bars. They wanted a song from the 60s or 50s, and they wanted something that showed off belt and character, so I did a remix of a song from Hair and made my own “Wongette-y” personality from it, gave her a bit more confidence and made it a bit crazier. And I didn’t get a callback, my best audition ever, and I didn’t get a callback. But I got an email a few weeks later from the director and he said, “Sage I remember really liking you,” and it was the most intense dance callback I’ve ever done, like 8-9 hours, and after that I got cast and I’m here.
Amanda Nicholas: I found the posting on Backstage, and I sang them something from Evil Dead: The Musical, “All the Men in My Life”.
Nick Mangione: I found the posting on Backstage as well, and I went in for the audition. I wanted to do something sci-fi-ish and the only thing I had in my song book like that was “Feed Me” from Little Shop of Horrors. So I sang that and then they asked if I had anything more comedy, and the only thing I had ready was “Betrayed” from The Producers. I sang that and they like it and I got the callback, the same callback as Sage, like 8-9 hours of dancing that didn’t even make the show. The reason none of it’s in the show is because he wants to see what we can do if we were really pushed.
Sage Buchalter: Yeah he pushed all of us. It wasn’t a bad dance, just so intense.
Nick Mangione: And after every section, the dancing, the singing, the reading… they’d send a group home, til it came down to me and another guy… and it was him. Then in December, I got an email saying, “He was leaving the show and we need to replace our understudy and we really like you in the callback, would you like to come back in?” And I was like, “Yes, Yes I do.” So now I’m the understudy for Ric and Louie.
Amanda Nicholas: This was his first night.
Nick Mangione: Yeah, this was my first night
Geeks of Doom: No way, wow are you serious? You were great. I would not have guessed that. I was going to ask how was it dancing in those (points to giant platform heels a la KISS boots)?
Nick Mangione: You know what (laughter), these aren’t too bad. The heels are wide; it’s way easier than other heels I’ve danced in.
Geeks of Doom: You brought up Evil Dead: The Musical, I saw that in a small theater off Broadway. Is there any chance of Wongo getting to that level?
Amanda Nicholas: Dave Ogrin, the head honcho in charge, did a small run in Brooklyn, and he’s consistently trying to find the right venue for it. When it’s in this space and it’s immersive and the bar culture… it really plays to that.
Sage Buchalter: I don’t think he wants it on a stage, but he would like it in a big warehouse where there are multiple bars, a bigger space for us to play, but keeping the immersiveness.
The three cast members discussed their affinity of both science fiction and comedy, and the appeal to fans of that genre. When I joked how the Wongettes looked like the exact type of sexy aliens that Captain Kirk would make-out with, Amanda Nicholas referenced her time in Warp Speed, a Star Trek parody, where she did in fact make out with Captain Jerk.
The Wild Women of Planet Wongo was seriously one of the most fun nights out we’ve had a long time. It’s funny, sexy, absolutely insane and you’re part of the show. Plus Wongo-tinis are fantastic! Go to Planet Wongo for details, tickets, and information. You can like them on FaceBook and Twitter using #planetwongo or @planetwongo. They’ll be at Parkside Lounge, 317 East Houston Street, in Manhattan every other Friday and Saturday night through the end of March.
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