Sad but true there is such a thing as a Tonya Harding musical and it’s exactly what you’d expect: crass, tacky and terribly intriguing.
For those lucky enough not to remember the whole story it’s an unusual Coen Brothers-like drama: a small town Olympic hopeful and her sleazy husband hatching a plan to maim their biggest competitor – topflight skater Nancy Kerrigan. Harding, whose role still remains murky, claimed that her then husband Jeff Gillooly threatened her if she went against his plan. It was a mess, the whole thing. Fueled by greed, and done in by sheer stupidity.
It was a real time drama full of some genuinely heartbreaking moments, but at the same time all incredibly absurd. The excessive pageantry that goes on in figure skating is over the top and asinine, which in a way makes it perfect for the stage. The scandal has made its way to the parody stage before, from rock operas to Weird Al Yankovic tracks, but the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater in Los Angeles and its creator, Jesse Esparza, are bringing the comedic threads to a new generation.
As you can guess there are some dodgy lyrics involved via songwriter Manny Hagopian. Lowlights include: “But no I can’t let her win/I’m gonna take this club and break her fucking shin!” as sung by Tonya Harding’s character, followed by faux-Kerrigan’s “I don’t have to try hard I can get away with anything, ‘cause I’m pretty/Skating’s easy, even if I fall down it’s no big deal ‘cause I’m pretty.”
The whole story is compelling, but what the media rarely mentions is the physical and emotional abuse Harding experienced while growing up. Her upbringing was poor, but she was a powerful skater with the ability to make the difficult look childishly easy.
Kerrigan on the other hand, was born to win and as picturesque as any ice queen before her. It could have been an underdog story for the ages, but instead is a strange, pop culture byline – one worthy of being recreated and poked fun at by all.