In 2005, the Oxford Hair Foundation predicted that the recessive gene that causes red hair will be so diluted by 2060 that redheads will become extinct. (This was later proved false but keeps popping up on the internet every few years.) In the November 2005 South Park episode “Ginger Kids” inspired by that claim, Eric Cartman lambasts redheads (until he seemingly becomes one and wants to save them), saying, “Like vampires, the ginger gene is a curse, and unless we work to rid the earth of that curse, the gingers could envelop our lives in blackness for all time. It is time that we all admit to ourselves that gingers are vile and disgusting. In conclusion, I will leave you with this: If you think that the ginger problem is not a serious one, think again.” The off-Broadway musical R.R.R.E.D. , which stands for the Real Redheaded Revolutionary Evolutionary Defiance, urges us to fight for the preservation of red-haired men, women, and children, holding secret meetings in the DR2 Theatre to spread ways of keeping gingers alive and well across the planet. These gatherings are led by Victoria O’Hara (Katie Thompson, who wrote the music and lyrics and collaborated on the book with Adam Jackman and Patrick Livingston), joined by her energetic, lively assistant, GJ Crockett (Matt Loehr). They are determined to keep red hair flourishing, coming up with a plan in which redheads need to procreate. “Participation is the key to propagation!” she declares, explaining, “Every time a non-redheaded person manages to woo and win a redhead, another baby is born into a world with one fewer redheaded head.”
A series of “Instructional Tutorial Musical Lessons” (including “Pregnant,” performed by Marissa Rosen as Stephanie Hicks, and “I Like You,” sung by Kevin Zak as Craig) and songs such as “The Rules,” “As Long as It’s Red,” “Revenge,” and “What Good’s a Blonde, Anyway . . .” fight the good fight, but it’s a losing battle. The low-budget, self-effacing show has some very fun moments, but it never comes together to form a cohesive whole. Upon entering the theater, each member of the audience is given a fake name that they must put on their shirt and use instead of their real name — I was Luke Skywalker, while my companion was Elizabeth Perkins — but that conceit just falls by the wayside, never going anywhere. While Thompson (Pump Boys and Dinettes, Big Fish), who evokes a latter-day Kathleen Turner, sports fiery red hair, the other characters don’t. Other elements also lack sense, from wigs to a monitor in the back that depicts photographs and text to support various theories. Director Andy Sandberg (Straight, Application Pending) can’t bring much focus to the show, which has been around since 2008, when an earlier, longer version was presented at the New York Musical Theatre Festival. About twenty-five minutes has been cut from that iteration, but it still is too long. And weekly celebrity guests — Kristen Mengelkoch (Forbidden Broadway) Kate Rockwell (Mean Girls), Christopher Sieber (Shrek the Musical, Tovah Feldshuh (Irena’s Vow) — who sing “Redheaded Stepchild,” feel out of place and gimmicky. In 1988, Tom Robbins wrote in GQ, “Whether they spring from genes disarranged by earthly forces or are ‘planted’ here by overlords from outer space is a matter for scholarly debate. It’s enough for us to recognize that redheads are abnormal beings, bioelectrically connected to realms of strange power, rage, risk, and ecstasy.” Like Robbins, I happen to be a redhead, and, as several characters say in R.R.R.E.D., “My blood bleeds red.” But just as Victoria and GJ are not having much luck saving redheads, it looks like the show itself can’t be saved, as the original closing date of October 21 has been moved up to September 11.