Katdashians! The Musical!, an off-Broadway mashup/parody of The Kardashians and Cats, makes it quite clear that Kris Jenner’s progeny and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s felines are cut from the same cloth. “Cats is pointless, and Kardashians is pointless,” co-creators Bob and Tobly McSmith tell The Creators Project. “We watched Cats, and we were like, ‘This is all confessionals!’” the show's choreographer, Viva Soudan, who also plays Kylie Katdashian, adds.
Running in New York through July 17, Katdashians is an improbable sendup of America’s favorite reality-TV kharacters, spun from the expert minds not of playwrights, but performance artists. Bob and Tobly McSmith first made names for themselves doing off-beat, freak-out performance art in East Village dives. Their foray into theater began when the duo decided to write a campy musical based on Saved by the Bell.
“Don’t be mistaken. We hate musicals,” Tobly McSmith says. “We fucking hate them, and 10 years ago, that’s why we decided to do them. We wanted to do a musical we’d want to see, at a price we’d want to pay.” The success of Bayside! The Musical snowballed into Showgirls! The Musical, Full House! The Musical, and JonBenet! Murder Mystery Theater. “Using the device of Cats to tell the Kardashians’ story was fun. More fun than Cats the Musical, for sure,” Tobly McSmith says. “Musicals are boring and scrubbed clean, but we’re dirty. This is our cleanest show.”
“—And it’s fucking filthy!” Bob McSmith interjects.
They may not be fans of the Kardashians or Cats (Bob was initially vehemently opposed to writing a musical about the two), but the McSmiths approach their subjects with academic rigor. Working with Soudan and performance artist Bailey Nolan, who plays Kris Jenner, the co-creators spawned a spot-on, utterly withering spoof. Musical numbers include “Meowmry,” sung by Catlyn Jenner, and “Dash! It’s a Store That We Own!” Fake butts abound as the cast morphs into Katdashians with stunning precision. Katdashians also tackles austere questions like, What exactly is a Kimoji? And, Can Katye West save Kim Katdashian with the power of fashion?
The show's parodied exactitude is played for laughs, but the Katdashian creators see it as an exercise in anthropology, too. “I was interested in it as social commentary about who we are as Americans,” Tobly McSmith says. “Kim has, like, 70 million Instagram followers, whereas the President has 7 million. When she posts a picture, it literally gets a million likes.” “She could change the world if she wanted to,” Bob McSmith says. “But she doesn’t,” Tobly McSmith says.
Of course, the punchline is that the Kardashians are in the game for financial gain, not the greater good. And yet, there’s something magnetic and indulgent about fixating on a group of celebrities who are supposedly doing nothing. Katdashians pounces on that frivolity and ups the ante, by way of booty dancing and compulsory audience selfies. And it’s easy to get swept away, because after all, superficial is fun.
As Kim says in Season 11, Episode 1 of Keeping Up with the Kardashians, “Take a selfie! It’s the best part of life.”
Snag tickets to Katdashians! The Musical! here—before it's too late. Performances run now through July 17 at the Elektra Theater near Times Square.