In 1692 in Salem, Massachusetts, bored little girls accused their neighbors of witchcraft; twenty people lost their lives. Not exactly fertile comic ground, but the Annoyance warps historical record with a feminist twist and makes it work in “Salem! The Musical.”
Reverend Parris ( Lauren Van Kurin) arrives from Barbados with his daughter Betsy (Ashley Thornton), slave Tituba (Allison Black) and unwanted orphan niece Abby (Elise Dubois). Educated Abby becomes the immediate object of lascivious Dr. Grimes’ (Kayce Alltop) suspicion.
The writing can be spotty; the second act is abrupt and this crew doesn’t need a gratuitous cuss word to land a punch line. But the smart ensemble’s high-energy, varied approaches win over the audience: Van Kurin is a cross between Jimmy Swaggart and Elvis, Thornton is wry and sly, and Alltop leads with her pelvis. Dan Wessels’ score is in on the joke. It’s a sharp rewrite of a scary story. (Lisa Buscani)
“Salem! The Musical,” Annoyance Theatre, 4830 N. Broadway, (773)561-4665, through October 30.