When the retailer Abercrombie & Fitch recently offered to pay "Jersey Shore" cast member Mike "The Situation" Sorrentino to not wear its clothing, Daniel Franzese and Hanna LoPatin recognized the comedic potential in the, er, situation.
They quickly wrote a joke to update their musical "Jersey Shoresical: A Frickin' Rock Opera."
"That was easy to throw in," says LoPatin.
That commitment to keeping "Jersey Shoresical" current and fresh has paid off. The satirical show had a sold-out run recently in Los Angeles and won the ensemble award at the 2011 New York International Fringe Festival. It's also been picked as part of the Fringe's encore series for six more shows in late September.
Even if you haven't seen MTV's "Jersey Shore," which chronicles the carryings-on of a group of hard-partying mostly 20-something Italian-Americans, the musical makes it easy to understand.
There's a glossary in the show's program of words and phrases often used by the cast like "grenade" (an unattractive girl) or "GTL" (the practice of going to the gym, tanning and doing laundry.)
Franzese and LoPatin not only created and co-wrote "Jersey Shoresical" but co-star as tumultuous couple Ronnie Ortiz-Magro and Sammi "Sweetheart" Giancola.
On stage they perform an emotional duet about their love/hate relationship, which has been a major focus of the TV series.
"They're just an amazing couple," laughs LoPatin. "They just can't stay away from each other and then they're toxic when they're together."
"Their passion lends itself to old operatic themes," adds Franzese, who wears a muscle suit for the show. "It was too tempting not to indulge."
Other highlights include:
— Karen Diconcetto, who plays Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi, sings about how she wants "a gorilla juicehead to love me forever" while holding a gigantic jar of pickles.
— Max Crumm, who plays Mike "The Situation" Sorrentino, holds a framed photo of himself and belts out a love song, whose lyrics include, "If my reflection could show affection" and ends with "I'm in love with me."
— Most surprisingly, a male (complete with streaked hair, blinged-out jean shorts and a push-up bra) has been cast to play Jenni "J-Woww" Farley.
"She's so glitzy, she's so out there, she's so tough, that it just seemed she had the right amount of masculine energy and female energy to be a drag queen," explains Franzese.
For the most part, the plot of the musical won't change but its creators say they follow new TV episodes in case something explosive happens that must be added in to keep it current.
LoPatin and Franzese say the show has stirred up buzz in the comedy and theater communities. They'd love to take it to other cities or off-Broadway.
While the two have their issues on stage, behind-the-scenes they're great writing partners. They often had to take breaks while collaborating because they were laughing so hard they couldn't breathe.
"There's a lot of high-fiving that goes on," says LoPatin.
So far the real "Jersey Shore" cast hasn't gone to see the show, but LoPatin and Franzese hope they one day attend and get the joke.
"These are people who make fun of themselves for a living. I think they know what they've gotten themselves into," says LoPatin.
"We have an affection for them. We were very sensitive to their feelings, believe it or not," says Franzese.
But LoPatin admits she would like more than just a "Jersey Shore" cast member to see the musical: She'd also want them to take part in it.
"My dream is for one of them to guest star as a grenade."