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'Psych: The Musical' review: Song, dance and death under Santa Barbara's skies

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'Psych: The Musical' review


After months and months of waiting, "Psych: The Musical" aired Sunday, Dec. 15, and it lived up to the hype. Familiar faces returned. New faces were introduced. This wasn't quite like anything the show had done before (sure, there have been musical numbers over the years, but nothing like this), but it still had the same qualities that have entertained fans over the years.

The music, the lyrics, and the dances were exactly what you expected from "Psych" – and in all the best ways. (Well done, Steve Franks and Adam Cohen. Well done.) What has made this series one of the most entertaining ones on television is that it doesn't pretend to be something it isn’t, and that rang true once again in what was a very fun episode and case. The best two songs of the event – "Santa Barbara Skies" and "I've Heard It Both Ways" – came early on, but they both had reprises, and we predict they'll end up being the ones most listened to in the days that follow.

Everyone in the cast brought their A games, whether it was singing or dancing (or even tapping). Plus, bringing back Ally Sheedy as Yang for the musical was brilliant (and while it was sad to see her die, it wasn't like Yang was ever going to get a happy ending), and casting Anthony Rapp was pure genius.

The best of the music "Santa Barbara Skies" was the right opening number for the episode and for the show, with lyrics like "gets accused to confess 'cause his hair is so exciting," nods to Shawn's "psychic" ability like, "I'm just good at observation …they believe that I can raise a finger to my head/see the past, read a mind/ and can mingle with the dead," and the pineapple sighting.

"I've Heard It Both Ways" had Shawn and Lassiter dancing together (The spinning! The swinging! The dip!), which in itself would have been enough to make it memorable. However, the lyrics for the original and the two reprises (and Timothy Omundson's singing!) also earned it a spot on this list. "The evidence is underwhelming/wait, no it's not/ the facts are falling into place/The only thing that's satisfying/is that the smirk is off your face," Lassiter sang in the first reprise.

"Z's Lament" and "Z's Surrender" were also notable, and that was due to a combination of the lyrics ("You took all without consideration/when you die I'll be the aberration/you made me to be before you stole my life/but I'll remain with my pain," Z sang as he surrendered) and Anthony Rapp's voice. Could someone else have played the part and done as good a job as Rapp did? Maybe, but we don’t think someone else could have sang those songs like he did.

The case Just as Shawn proclaimed that a bloodbath was coming and Gus argued that nothing terrible was going to happen, Z, the original writer of the original Jack the Ripper musical, Ripper!, escaped from Willowbrooke Psychiatric Hospital. As Z explained to a guy on a bench who proclaimed himself a good listener (his "squirrel friends" had abandoned him, after all), he had written Ripper!, but in 2005, he supposedly burned down the theater and a critic who had been about to write a scathing review based on a run-through the night before previews. He had chosen this guy in particular to tell his story to because he'd been watching him from across the street in his room at Willowbrooke. "Not a very good one," Z said of the hospital. "They don't listen." (They also didn't have the best security, obviously.)

With help from the "spirits" ("And who believes this?" the hospital's Chief Doctor asked upon hearing about Shawn's "psychic" ability. "Most of us," Juliet replied. "Not me," Lassiter said. Has he seen anyone about it? "He loved it," Juliet explained.), Shawn put them on Z's trail. They learned that Z's confidante was Yang, who entered with "Yang's Xmas." "There'll be sleigh bells and songs and homemade pipe bombs," she sang for the other patients and her new audience. She wanted something in return for telling what she knew, and so she got a day pass. She also got a song – "Making Up a Song," not the ballad she wanted – and she pointed them to Z's room in the old theater.

Inside the room was a Ripper! cast and crew list, which led them to the next victim, Miles, the producer. Ripper! was being resurrected (with a new script written by the former director, Ben) in Armitage's posh Santa Barbara theater, but while speaking to Ben and Chris Lamberth (the Inspector in the new production), Shawn and Gus saw Miles fall to his death, a suicide as ruled immediately by Woody, who spent his time on screen flirting with Yang and singing the very Woody "Often It's the Opposite."

Elisa's name was also highlighted on the list, but she wasn't back for the new production because her face was burned. She also wasn't worried Z escaped; he had called her and played her her song. However, Z did pay her a visit, and while Lassiter, Juliet, and McNab chased down a decoy (the man from the bench), Shawn ended up chasing Z through the woods. "I Hurt No One," Z sang, and Shawn replied that he believed him…before Z punched him. Yang took the opportunity to escape, leaving the police to have to track down her and Z. Yang made her first Skype call ever to Shawn, and after getting a musical number from him and another from him and Gus, gave them clues that led to Z's room at Willowbrooke, where they found a group of letters proclaiming his love to Elisa. They were never sent. As Shawn declared this to be another sign that Z was innocent, Elisa's body was found.

Lassiter and Juliet followed phone records and security footage to Elisa's last known whereabouts – Armitage's theater – while Shawn and Gus found Z's script for Ripper! at Elisa's house along with a photo from the days of the original production and Armitage was in the background, despite claiming the fire had been in the news when he first arrived in town. Shawn and Lassiter still disagreed about the killer's identity, and it looked like Shawn was wrong and it wasn't Armitage. He was just acting suspicious because he was cheating on his wife, who was having him followed (for good reason). That meant Shawn was stuck in his worst nightmare, where Lassiter could be right, but Henry was the one to give him his next clue: a bar Z had frequented. Shawn found Z at the piano there, and Z had solved the entire case, but he refused to tell Shawn because he wanted to kill the person responsible himself.

It turned out that that hadn’t been Z's room at Willowbrooke. It was Yang's, and she had been on mail duty. She hadn't mailed Z's letters because she was in love with him, and after helping him escape, he had gone straight to Elisa, so she killed her. They found Yang at the old theater, but Shawn and Gus were followed, and that person attacked Shawn, hanging him by a rope before fighting Yang. Yang was able to slash the killer across the chest and cut Shawn free, but it cost her her life, and so she died without telling them who the killer was (it would spoil the ending) and to her ballad she wanted – from Mary.

It was the night of the show, and after seeing Chris do stunt work with the rope like the killer had, Shawn and Gus confronted him with a pretty flimsy theory. Chris ended up knocking himself out when he tried to run, and after they didn't find any slash marks on his chest, Shawn had to take the stage as the Inspector. After a call to Juliet, Shawn learned that one of the earliest scripts of Ripper! had been found under a bookcase and put all the pieces together in the entertaining "Shawn's Breakdown." Ben and Miles had killed the critic and left Z to take the blame. Z had given the script to Elisa, and Ben killed her to keep her silent.

Gus, who had wanted the role so badly, had to go on as the Inspector ("Are you even surprised anymore?" Juliet asked Lassiter when they saw him), while Shawn followed Z and Ben down to the bowels of the theater. Ben did a terrible job of pleading his case to Z, but fortunately, Z did surrender and Ben was arrested.

So was it the greatest idea for the musical Z ever heard, Shawn asked as they visited him in Willowbrooke with the story. "Well, it's very creative," Z admitted. "Life rights will be involved. And since it's my life, I will think about it." However, some parts of it would have to be taken out because they made them up. All that was left was to honor Yang's last request regarding her ashes and find the Chief Doctor's car.

"Psych" season 8 premieres Jan. 8 at 9 p.m. on USA Network. What did you think of "Psych: The Musical"? What was your favorite number?

© Meredith Jacobs 2013

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