When most people get the “Scooby Dooby Doo, Where Are You?” theme song stuck in their head, their visions of the treat-obsessed pup’s future don’t usually land on occult sacrifice—but the Tin Can Brothers are not most people and audiences are better for it. Familiar faces from Team StarKid’s A Very Potter Musical teamed up for a Tin Can Brothers production to put on yet another pop culture-infused hit that had audiences laughing their asses off for a solid 80 minutes. Seriously, the longest pause between laughs was maybe half of a second.
The Solve It! Squad is a ‘where are they now’ parody of Scooby Doo after the gang breaks up following a loss in their ranks. The names were—of course—changed, but it was obvious that each character mirrors a member of the OG Scooby Gang. The Solve It! Squad starts off incredibly campy and fun with a naive ragtag group of middle schoolers solving crimes until it gets… dark. Like, occult sacrificy and dismembery dark. As often happens in life, especially after a traumatic experience, the group parts ways.
Cut to 20 years later when Scraggs (Shaggy) now-turned FBI agent, gets assigned the case of the villain who tore his friends apart and ultimately, got away. Of course, he has to recruit each former member of the Solve it Squad to close the case that has been plaguing them for two decades. That task is made difficult as each member of the group has become a hot mess. Without giving too much away, this show is essentially Scooby Doo on crack—it’s not for the faint of heart or people who don’t enjoy crude humor.
Pop culture mashups are almost always a hit. Joey Richter (Scraggs), enjoys working in this genre because he loves having the ability to do something absurd. Having a pop culture jumping point that everyone already understands, he feels, makes the show more palatable for the audience. We talked about how shows like Mean Girls, Spongebob, and Cursed Child make up a good portion of currently running shows on Broadway. With Cursed Child sold out for ages, Mean Girls racking up the most Tony nominations, and Spongebob stacking up a surprisingly hefty sum of acclaims, it’s clear that the desire for nostalgia and pop culture shows run deep. Richter saw Mean Girls this week and he had a “rockin’ time.”
The Millennial generation, especially, seeks out and clings to our favorite things from childhood. Many of us struggle with the delights of student loans, trying to find jobs in our field, and having the rugs yanked out from under us when we grew up being told we could do anything and then were laughed at for choosing artsy, creative majors. And, I mean, everything is our fault. Sorry, Applebees!
Gabe Greenspan (Keith), says that doing pop culture-infused shows that use a fun template allows them to use characters that people already know. According to Greenspan, “It’s a game of creating characters that feel enough as your own thing when the groundwork is already laid.”
For a generation frequently feeling lost, we love to go back to our roots and essentially make fun of ourselves. We enjoy parodied characters like Gwen (Daphne), obsessed with fame and the perfect selfie because sometimes, that glam angle is the only high point of our day. Anxious characters like Scrags, who had to lose his happy-go-lucky nature to enter the “real word,” are super relatable, especially when they say things like “I have a panic disorder,” because, same. Then there’s the frat bro-esque Keith (Fred), who everyone loves despite being a total player and Esther (Wilma), who will recklessly do anything to shut her brain off. The Solve It! Squad character ensemble consists of a bunch of misfits, which is why it works so well because we’re all a bunch of misfits.
Small budget shows are the best shows. The humor is amped up to 11 every time an actor has to improv a prop or when the same actor literally plays “everyone else” in a cast. Brian Rosenthal had about 10 roles in The Solve It! Squad, and some of the best bits in the show featured Rosenthal changing wigs and hats onstage mid-scene or making out with himself—so meta. According to Rosenthal, playing multiple characters in a show takes a lot of rehearsal and is akin to skiing down a hill. It’s not his first rodeo when it comes to playing multiple characters in one show, and the humor he brings to the process is unparalleled.
This particular cast is well-known for their proclivity toward pop culture shows and Lauren Lopez, who graduated from the University of Michigan’s acting program along with Richter and Rosenthal noted that these kinds of shows are relatable, but her biggest reason for doing them is her friends—an answer she thought was lame was one of my favorite quotes from the night. There’s something… dare I say magical about a group of friends coming together to create something amazing.
When you love what you do and especially, who you do it with, it shows in the final product. Sure, you can fake it, and some people can even fake it flawlessly, but what’s the point when it only drains your energy and makes you miserable? There’s a reason members of a college theater group (StarKid) that put on a musical (A Very Potter Musical) almost 10 years ago are still coming together to put on new shows for sold-out audiences. At the risk of sounding like a sappy, nostalgic mess, this group revitalized their own brand of pop culture parody musicals and because they connect with each other so well, the audience deeply connects with their shows.
More sappy cliche nonsense ahead: The Solve It! Squad hones in on the fact that drifting apart is inevitable, and that’s a fact most people have experienced and have come to terms with. Lopez and the StarKid fam have proven that there really aren’t three writers in the sky dictating our lives. We can work toward staying in touch with the people we care about even if it’s only for a short two-week play in New York City.
On that note, The Solve It! Squad is only running until May 12 so if you’re in New York, (or willing to travel for a show well worth it) grab those tickets before they sell out. For anyone else, or anyone who wants to see it again, a digital ticket version for a pre-recorded show is available to purchase now (for only 15 dollars) and for a short time after the show’s run. Just buy a ticket and watch the show as many times as you want within 72 hours from when you redeem the code. As Richter said on Twitter this week, “YOU WON’T REGRET IT!”