Pageant: The Musical Comedy Beauty Contest – Theatre Review: Arizona Broadway Theatre, Peoria

Pageant Poster

Out of all the shows presented at Arizona Broadway Theatre in Peoria this current season, it’s probable that for mainstream theatre audiences, the 1991 off-Broadway musical comedy Pageant is the least known. Don’t let that hold you back. Without reservation, it’s also, surprisingly, the funniest and most satisfying production on ABT’s stage this year. Here’s why.

As the title suggests, Pageant is a musical comedy/parody of a full beauty pageant, the whole show, where everyone in the house, including the audience, is part of the production. The setup is simple, but it comes with a twist.

First, the setup. Each year, Glamouresse Beauty Products puts on a contest that will determine the new Miss Glamouresse. Whoever wins will not only enjoy wearing the crown and all that comes with it but will spend the oncoming year as a cosmetic spokesmodel for the company. Throughout the contest there’ll be everything you’d expect to see at a beauty pageant as each contestant competes in evening gowns, swim-wear, talent, a test run as a spokesmodel promoting some genuinely awful Glamouresse beauty products and an impromptu moment answering real calls on the Beauty Crisis Hotline. There are six contestants vying for the title, each representing a particular region of the country. Now the twist. They’re all played by men.

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When the show first opened twenty-five years ago, the idea of seeing men in drag parodying beauty pageants possibly raised more eyebrows and seemed more daring than it does today – society and our cultural attitudes have certainly changed during the last two decades – but the passing of time hasn’t changed the impact of the humor, and Pageant remains as funny as it ever was. A beauty pageant is always rife for parody, but when the contestants sing of having all the right equipment and “… We don’t have to stay on top by acting like a man,” the whole affair becomes so much more effective and certainly much funnier when you know those are really guys strutting around up there. It’s not making fun of women, it’s toying with the absurdity of beauty contests existing in the first place.

The seven-man cast consists of six contestants and a host. The judges come from selected audience members near the front of the house who cast their votes during the last five minutes, meaning that each night there’s a different winner. In other words, no two productions are ever like; even the actors won’t know who’ll eventually wear the crown.

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The contestants represent each region of the country, thus there’s Miss Bible Belt (James Roberts, IV) who tells of how she once hit rock bottom to the point where she didn’t even have enough money to buy mascara; Miss Deep South (David Vogel) whose interests cover home economics and cancer research; Miss Industrial Northeast (Eddie Maldonado) who speaks with a thick Hispanic accent, works in a women’s detention center and looks and sounds as though she might have stepped straight out of Don Francisco’s Sabado Gigante; Miss Great Plains (Michael LaMasa) whose hobbies include breeding livestock and enjoys wearing beige; Miss West Coast (Seth Tucker) who is proud of living on the San Andreas Fault and enjoys her many reincarnations by living her life in the past; and from the one state that is most certainly a region unto itself, Miss Texas (Kurtis W. Overby) whose vocation is to work with the beauty impaired.

Then there’s the host. Even though there’s no backstory to the character, you can easily imagine Frankie Cavalier (Jon Gentry) as a squirly, bewigged used-car salesman who regularly hosts karaoke night at a local bar. With his occasional look of bemusement at a contestant’s clueless remark and his lounge-lizard singing, over the years, Frankie has clearly accomplished fake showbiz sincerity to perfection. The illusion of watching a real beauty contest is made all the more complete when the character makes his initial entrance; you’ll find yourself applauding as if you already know him as a local, low-rent celebrity. Gentry is as accomplished a professional as Frankie is not, making everything the character says and does as equally funny as the ‘ladies.’ When standing in a line and dwarfed by those broad-shouldered, big-boned and obviously muscular contestants, at first glance, Frankie looks as though he’s hosting a female body-building contest rather than a beauty pageant, and that only adds to the humor.

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Perhaps funniest of all, besides the contestant’s performance element that looks more like a nightmare version of America’s Got Talent, are the individual promotions for the Glamouresse Beauty Products. Miss Bible Belt promoting the Smooth As Marble Spackle that covers those deeper than normal skin cracks – you apply it with a trowel – is funny enough, but Miss West Coast’s demonstration of the Glamouresse Snap-On Deodorant delivers the show’s most undeniably, laugh-out-loud, funniest moment of the year. When Seth Tucker, who also directed and choreographed the show – he was also in the off-Broadway production – demonstrates the effectiveness of the product and then gets his first whiff, the look on his/her face is priceless.

The show’s overall effectiveness would have benefited from a smaller, more intimate setting, but Geoffrey Eroe’s set design does a fine job of filling ABT’s wide stage with glam and glitter, while all other credits, from Amanda Gran’s wigs, Josh Luton and Lottie Dixon’s costumes, Dan Efros’ lighting, Joshua Tobin’s sound, to Lizzie Hatfield’s music direction are exactly as the show requires. Pageant is a hoot, and the most fun of all is you’ll actually find yourself rooting throughout for your favorite contestant. And don’t be disappointed if she doesn’t win. Make a return visit and you never know, she may get the crown the next time around. 

Pictures courtesy of Kat Barnes

For more regarding times, dates and tickets CLICK HERE for the official ABT website

Posted in Theatre

Don’t Breathe – Film Review

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There’s an issue with the movies lately that’s fast becoming a trend. It’s where the opening scene gives audiences a glimpse of events that have already unfolded. It’s a like a teaser trailer for things to come. Clearly, a character is in trouble but we’re not sure why. Then the scene fades and the story backtracks until we eventually circle around to that same moment. It’s meant to pull you immediately in and leave you wondering. In the case of Don’t Breathe, maybe, just maybe, it gives away a little too much, too soon.

It’s present day Detroit and teenager Rocky (Jane Levy) is looking for a way out of a dysfunctional home life for her and her little sister. She needs money; lots of it. With the help of her deadbeat boyfriend known only as Money (Daniel Zovatto) and a young guy who has a crush on her, Alex (Dylan Minette), the three come up with what they believe may just be the perfect plan.

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As witnessed immediately after that dubious and largely unnecessary opening scene, the three youngsters get their spare cash and a certain amount of kicks from robbing homes of the wealthy and selling whatever they find. It just so happens that Alex’s father runs a home security business giving the three kids access to pass-codes. One of the homes they focus upon appears to be exactly what they’ve been looking for. “If we do this right,” explains Rocky to the two boys, “We’ll never have to do it again.”

A loner army vet (Stephan Lang) lives in a house in the middle of a derelict Detroit area with no other neighbors for blocks. There’s literally no one else around. All the other houses are empty; they’re dilapidated shells of what used to be homes while weeds grow along the neglected sidewalks, plus the streetlights are off. What makes this so attractive to the three teenagers is that the vet is known to be sitting on $300,000 that was part of an earlier publicized settlement. The young thieves acquire his alarm-code and in the early hours of the morning while the vet sleeps, they break in.

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What makes this robbery even more of a dream for the thieves is the discovery that the vet is also blind. With no qualms of robbing a blind guy, the three really do think they’ve hit the jackpot. An isolated home in a deserted, derelict area, and all that’s between them and the money is a retired, vulnerable blind guy. What could go wrong?

From the moment they enter the house it all goes downhill. The vet may be blind, but he’s anything but helpless. With all the windows barred and thick padlocks on most of the doors, once the vet knows he has intruders he takes extra measures to keep everyone locked in. The victim becomes the formidable hunter and the three teenage thieves, unable to escape, are suddenly the helpless victims, and one thing is clear – the vet is taking no prisoners.  “There’s nothing a man can’t do,” explains the Blind Man to a cornered Rocky, “Once he accepts there is no God.”

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What seems like a simple setup progresses into something more as the teenagers hide in corners of the house, holding their breathe, trying to keep as quiet as possible as the blind vet uses his acute hearing, his sense of smell and a series of guns to weed them out. What the youngsters find in the basement changes everything making it suddenly apparent why the vet, credited as simply The Blind Man, is so intent on not letting anyone get away. It also changes audiences loyalty. For whom do you now root?

You may find yourself siding with Rocky who is looking for a better life, particularly after knowing how desperate her home life is. The film certainly appears to want you to side with her, but let’s not forget, she’s still a thief and, like the other two teenagers, she’s robbed homes and made other people’s lives a misery, and there she is, robbing a blind guy of his life savings. Yet the secret actions of the veteran and what we and the robbers discover he has previously done removes any sympathy we may have had for him.

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On the one hand you may hope Rocky gets out of there alive – certainly, neither she nor the two boys deserve the kind of fate the vet may have in store for them – but on the other hand they’re still thieves robbing a blind guy. Depending on your point of view, you may think they brought it on themselves, which they did, and find yourself passively watching as events unfold, not caring who gets it next but engaged in how it’s being done.

The lack of allegiance doesn’t spoil the tension. There may be a few questionable plot holes along the way if you’re determined to look for them, but overall, Don’t Breathe is a very effective, edge-of-your-seat, taut, horrific thriller. Director Fede Alvarez does an admirable job of keeping tension to stretching point throughout without engaging in over-the-top blood letting or shooting his film with a nauseous-inducing hand-held. Ultimately, you’re just not sure who should get your cheers; they’re all in the wrong.

MPAA Rating: R    Length: 88 Minutes    Overall rating: 7 (out of 10)

Posted in Film

Don’t Dress For Dinner – Theatre Review: Scottsdale Desert Stages Theatre, Actors Cafe, Scottsdale

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Farce is a personal thing. If it doesn’t appear to be working in the first five minutes, you can tell, it’s never going to work.

The forced nature of intentionally over-acting not only requires a lot from the actors, but also from the audience. There’s work required. Actors need to convince that the absurdity of their character’s behavior is what they would really do in a convoluted situation, while audiences have to overlook their own sense of logic and fully embrace the foolish state of affairs in order to enjoy the proceedings. It’s not easy. Farce is definitely a two-way affair.

In the French sex comedy Don’t Dress For Dinner now playing at Scottsdale Desert Stages Actor’s Cafe until September 19, no introductory time is wasted. Within the first couple of minutes, the audience is thrown into the middle of a marital deceit that you know will soon go disastrously wrong as the plot machinations of secret affairs breathlessly unfolds.

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Over the years since it was first performed in Paris in 1987, the play has possessed different time frames. The 1991 London production was present time, the 2012 Broadway revival turned the clock back to 1960, while this new production at Desert Stages has the events taking place in the late 90’s. The plot doesn’t change, only the style of costumes.

Adapted from French into English by British playwright Robin Hawdon, Don’t Dress For Dinner takes place in the living room of a cozy country home, a converted farmhouse some miles outside of Paris. Explaining plot and its various twists and turns is always a disservice when it comes to farce, not to mention that the reader can often get lost in a detailed synopsis, but it’s basically this: The philandering middle-aged Bernard (Geoff Goorin) is to have a free weekend. His wife, Jacqueline (Deborah Weissman Ostreicher) is about to leave to visit her mother. This gives the adulterous husband the opportunity of sneaking his young mistress, Suzanne (Skylar Ryan) into the farmhouse for the weekend. Naturally, it all goes disastrously wrong when Jacqueline cancels plans and remains. What follows is a frantic mess involving Bernard’s friend Robert (Wade Moran), a Cordon Bleu cook who makes house-calls, Suzette (Ashley Jackson) and Suzette’s threatening, leather-jacketed husband, George (Jeff Viso).

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The six-person cast attack their roles with the kind of full-on, over the top energy required of characters in a farce as they race around the set, mug, panic and outdo each other by telling lie after lie while everything around them picks up speed and spirals out of control. Eventually, no one’s quite sure where they are in the deceit or what lie they told last. It’s not the wordplay that’s funny – the wit of the script is minimal – it’s the actions and tangled plot developments that make you laugh; torturous for the characters but laugh-out-loud funny for the audience.

As co directed by Virginia Oliviera and Gary Zaro, there’s something of a three-way cultural divide in the play’s presentation. The setting, setup and characters are definitely French, the dialog is British – to be drunk is to be “pissed as a newt” and sex is referred to as “rodgering” – and it’s all delivered with an American accent. It doesn’t harm the flow of things – a bad theatrical French accent could ruin everything – but as presented, it would be somehow easier for stateside audiences to accept that an older Frenchman would have a young French mistress. Played with a purely American voice as though these were all yanks living overseas near Paris only makes the upper middle-aged Bernard and his friend Robert appear more lecherous when talking about younger women. It doesn’t make anything less funny but it certainly makes the men slightly more creepy. “We’re all broad-minded here,” states Bernard.

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As for the female characters, with their attitudes and behavior, they’re the kind that could only come from the imagination of a man in service to a plot. The wife – who is also having an affair – is someone who could easily make a cheating husband’s life misery if he was ever caught, while the mistress is the dream girl of a guy with an-overactive fantasy; an attractive and shapely young woman with the morals of an alley cat who would not only go for an older man without concern for his marital status but would also go with his best friend after a first meeting under the same roof.

Towards the last half hour, the play often looks as if it’s in danger of losing steam – it feels longer than it should – but the cast bring it back for the conclusion. No lessons are learned, and there’s no redemption for the philanderers, but as you would expect, a marital catastrophe is averted and the fantasy mistress still gets to sleep with someone.

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Interestingly, the most fun female character is the one not having an affair. As Suzette, Ashley Jackson’s natural charm and unforced comedic quality makes her Cordon Bleu caterer all the funnier as she willingly involves herself in the men’s deceit for a fee. With a smile that lights her face, pretending to be a mistress for two hundred francs – no Euros in the nineties – and a further two to pretend she’s really the niece appears to be as amusing to Suzette as it is for the audience to watch her. In addition to the money, Ashley steals every moment she’s on. “You don’t look forty-five,” she tells Robert. “At least, fifty.” Suzette may be a supporting role but Ashley grounds the fast-paced hokum. She makes it seem like it’s really her show.

Pictures courtesy of Heather Butcher

For more regarding times, dates and tickets CLICK HERE for the official Scottsdale Desert Stages Theatre website.

Posted in Theatre

Ben-Hur – Film Review

Ben Hur Poster

Generally, when movie-goers refer to the original Ben-Hur, they’re talking of the epic 1959 Charlton Heston film. But if you count the 2003 animated feature (voiced by Heston) there are now five big screen versions, plus a 2010 TV mini series and an 1899 spectacular play that ran for over twenty years.

The novel was written by a civil war general who subtitled his book A Tale of the Christ, even though it’s really about two childhood friends who lived in Jerusalem at the time of Christ; in reality, Jesus is a distant support. Despite the belief among some that the tale of Ben-Hur is true, it’s not. There’s no Ben-Hur in The Bible and there are no historical references to the man or his family. It was fiction, written by General Lew Wallace who, at the time of writing the book, was agnostic. He neither believed nor dis-believed the miracles, but something happened during the writing. After working on the book for five years, the general converted. Curiously, his own writing inspired his religious transformation.

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Why, after so much history and so many re-tellings of the story of Judah Ben-Hur, was there a need to tell the tale yet again, particularly when the 1959 version was such a colossus of a big screen adventure? With a growing audience interest in faith-based films, Hollywood will always turn its attention to where the money might be. After Ridley Scott’s retelling of Moses in Exodus: Gods and Kings and Russell Crowe as Noah, it was inevitable that the industry would look to other familiar names and stories to capture that same audience potential. And so there’s now a fifth telling of Ben-Hur for a new generation employing all the technical know-how of modern cinema but resulting with an oddly underwhelming adventure that fails to either stir or inspire. The arc of the story may be there, but whittled down to two hours, watching the new Ben-Hur feels more like the script was adapted not from the general’s sprawling and heavily detailed classic adventure but from the Readers Digest library of edited novels for those who don’t really like to read.

While director Timur Bekmambetov may want his audience to forget the previous version and concentrate solely on the new, whether he or the studio likes it or not, that’s going to be difficult. William Wyler’s previous three and a half hour epic is such a landmark film that comparisons between the two are not only inevitable, they’re mandatory. You can’t ignore a film that won eleven Oscars when reviewing a new adaptation that won’t be considered for a single one.

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The new Ben-Hur is touted as a new interpretation, a story concentrating more on the relationship between a Jewish prince in Roman-occupied Jerusalem and his adopted Roman brother. Judah (Jack Huston) and Messala (Toby Kebbell) are inseparable childhood friends, but as they grow older, the division between the Romans and the Jews divides those within the house of Hur. Now adult, Messala leaves his adoptive Jewish home and becomes an officer in the Roman army. Upon returning to Jerusalem but with his allegiance now to the Roman Empire, Messala sentences his Jewish brother to a life of slavery.

Events occur fast. With a lot of editing and streamlining of characters and their sub-plots, what previously took time to unfold and develop, here takes minutes. It doesn’t feel long before Judah is already pulling the oars in the galley of a Roman slave ship, then finding himself in the care of a Nubian sheik (Morgan Freeman) and getting ready to race at the Roman Circus in a chariot. There’s a lot missing, including visually striking, big screen images.

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The book’s two big moments, the sea battle and the chariot race, are both here yet neither dominates the widescreen in the way they should. That sense of big screen spectacle – the very thing that sold the ‘59 film – is missing. The sea battle occurs but it’s a chaotic mess, shot with an unsteady hand-held and viewed from down in the galley of the slave ship where Judah spies the events at angles through holes in the side of the Roman vessel. You’re never quite sure what’s happening, which is certainly the way Judah would have experienced it, but by filming the event from the central character’s restrictive point-of-view, the audience is robbed of a lavish, cinematic impact.

The chariot race fares better, but again, with the hand-held and flashy, quick edits, it’s not always clear where Judah or Messala are in relation to everyone else. When Messala’s chariot flips, the events are shot in such a chaotic, unclear manner, it’s difficult to determine exactly what occurred to make the chariot fly; it’s all so murky.

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There’s also the issue of casting. Curiously, everyone, including the two leads, Huston and Kebbell, look modern; teen idol dreamboats whose faces might adorn posters on the walls of a young girl’s college dorm. And unlike the previous version where the portrayal of Jesus was more suggested than seen – the ‘59 version had mostly over the shoulder shots of Christ but none of his face – here the faith-based crowd are treated to a fully-fledged character. Brazilian actor and model Rodrigo Santoro plays Christ, but with his tanned and modern-day, rock ‘n roll hair and handsome good looks, he makes the Messiah appear more like Superstar than even Ted Neeley could.

Even the impact of the climactic family leprosy cure which had audiences moved to tears in ‘59 is here more of quick, passing event. There is no inspiring final fade out. Instead we get – no joke – two reunited friends on horseback riding slow-mo into a sunset while a modern, FM-friendly power ballad plays over the final credits. Imagine hearing Doris Day’s Que Sera, Sera while Charlton Heston looked with inspiration to the skies at the ‘59 fade out. Never has a theme song sounded so ridiculously out of place as it does here.

MPAA Rating: PG-13    Length: 124 Minutes    Overall Rating: 4 (out of 10)

Posted in Film

War Dogs – Film Review

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Based on a Rolling Stone article by Guy Lawson that later became a book called Arms and the Dudes, War Dogs is the real-life story of a couple of Florida stoners who saw a loophole, went for it and became temporarily rich as gunrunners, supplying weapons for U.S. troops. It’s an incredible story, but the fact that it’s true – well, mostly true – makes it all the more fascinating. That’s not to say that the film itself succeeds on all levels, but there’s no denying that the source material is something quite extraordinary.

In reality there were not two but three dudes. Efraim Diveroli (Jonah Hill) was the driving force, David Packouz (Miles Teller) was the schoolyard friend who saw the potential for wealth and joined forces with Diveroli, while a third friend, pot-dealer Alex Podrizki became their guy in Albania. The subtitle to Lawson’s book was ‘How Three Stoners from Miami Beach Became the Most Unlikely Gunrunners in History,’ but the film’s script streamlines things down to just two.

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Told as a black comedy and narrated by Teller’s character, Packouz, the film opens with the trick more often used by television to pull audiences immediately in with the economy of action. It’s January 1, 2008, and young Packouz is taken out of a car’s trunk by a group of foreign looking bad guys in what appears to be the middle of a colorless, desolate nowhere. They slap him around, threaten him, then stick a gun to his head. How he got there, why he was zipped up in a body bag, and why the presumed bad guys kidnapped him is something the film will eventually explain until it circles back to that same moment. The payoff, once we get there, amounts to little and feels like a tease, but at least it gets you wondering about the guy’s fate, which was always the aim of that dramatic introduction. It just feels unnecessary.

The reason why the book is called Arms and the Dudes (which was also the film’s original title) is that the two leads conducted most of their business while high. They would begin the morning with a ‘wake and bake’ routine of getting stoned before anything else, then face the conflicts of the day. “Dude,” states Diveroli to his old friend he had known since junior high, “I think you should come work for me.”

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The work revolved around Diveroli’s small company called A.E.Y. Inc. which looked for ways of exploiting a system allowing small businesses to make bids on U.S. Military contracts. Once best friend Packouz saw what could be made with what he assumed would be a minimum of risk, together the two guys developed ways of supplying arms overseas. The money was good, and it built, which only fueled their interest in doing more. It’s when they were handed a deal to arm the Afghan Military in a three hundred million dollar U.S. Government operation that things spiraled out of control.

Broken into sections titling an oncoming quote, as in God Bless Dick Cheney’s America, That Sounds Illegal and If I’d Wanted You Dead, You’d Already be Dead, director Todd Phillips, who also co-wrote the screenplay, uses a Scorsese style of quick, zippy edits, voice-over narration and a pop/rock soundtrack to propel things forward at an unstoppable, entertaining pace.

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Packouz tells the story but it’s Diveroli’s character that comes across as the most well-rounded and interesting, and certainly the most threatening. Reprehensible and unpleasant in almost every way, Diveroli is a sociopath with allegiance to no one other than his own profit and survival. As Packouz observes and narrates, “He would find out what kind of person his client wanted him to be and he would become that person.” In the eyes of some, that’s perhaps the most extreme example of the perfect salesman, but it’s an approach that will ultimately work against him, as well as against Packouz.

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How much is true and how much is condensed in order to make the tale simpler and more accessible in its telling is difficult to say. Both Teller and, particularly, Hill convince, and if you look up articles on the real characters, you’ll see that most of the events in the film really did occur; perhaps not quite as seen in the film, but the overall effect is relatively accurate.

The conclusion and the sentences handed down, as surprising as they are, are real, yet the film takes what feels like one unnecessary step further in a final scene involving a visit from a threatening and perpetually unshaven guy called Henry (Bradley Cooper) who happens to be on the government’s terrorist watch-list.  What occurs at that meeting in a Miami hotel room would be unfair to say, particularly as it ends the story, but the moment and Henry’s offer to Teller’s Packouz comes across less as a real event and more of a convenient fantasy, a way of ending things on a fictional upbeat note when it shouldn’t require one. But as Hill’s sociopathic Diveroli asks, “When does telling the truth ever help anybody?”

MPAA Rating: R    Length: 114 Minutes    Overall Rating: 7 (out of 10)

Posted in Film

Lizzie – Theatre Review: A/C Theatre Company, Hardes Theatre at Phoenix Theatre, Phoenix

Lizzie Poster

The law may have declared her not guilty, but legend and tradition think otherwise. So, too, does the uncompromising, in-your-face, rock musical, Lizzie.

Based on the infamous Lizzie Borden affair, A/C Theatre Company increased the volume and began its second season this past weekend at the intimate Hardes Theatre at Phoenix Theatre with Lizzie, a four-woman, hard core rock musical that assumes all the rumors and gossip you’ve ever heard revolving around the story are true.

Performed on a raised wooden platform with angled handrails and doorways, designer Greg Hynes’ set resembles something of a model for an unfinished, theme park crazy house, a sparse yet highly effective scenic design that adds to the overall nightmare effect of the production’s horrific theme. “There’s some crazy shite in the house of Borden,” declares the maid, Bridget (Heather Fallon).

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Under Alan Ruch’s musical direction, the show may have a pulsating rock score with an economy of dialog but writers Steven Cheslik-DeMeyer, Tim Maner and Alan Stevens Hewitt have done their homework when it comes to rumor and plot, even with the relatively minor though important details that add to the story’s makeup. Lizzie (Megan Moylan) who insisted that her name was not Elizabeth, had a habit of calling Bridget the live-in maid ‘Maggie,’ the name of a previous maid. Father really did kill Lizzie’s pigeons in the barn with a hatchet. Lizzie and her older sister Emma (Lauren McKay) had a somewhat religious upbringing, called their stepmother ‘Mrs. Borden’ and really did believe that the new woman in their lives was after father’s money. And close friend to Lizzie, Alice (Cassie Chilton) really did discover Lizzie burning a bloodied dress in a fire after the event. All of that is documented and included in the show.

Then there are the rumors of abuse, incest and even a lesbian tryst. “Daddy, stop it,” Lizzie proclaims as she relates time spent alone with her father, singing of fingers on her stomach, then fingers on her fingers. The events leading up to the two murders lead no doubt as to why Lizzie would become unhinged, grab an axe and do the deed. As presented here, stepmom and dad were asking for it.

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Musically, Lizzie is a powerhouse production that gives each of the four performers an opportunity at one time or another to let rip and go to town with some high-powered, passionate vocals. Because of the theatre’s intimate setting and the close-proximity of the audience to the stage, there’s a surprising and welcomed clarity to the lyrics, even when the volume is occasionally turned up to eleven. But make no mistake, this is timeless, through the decades rock ‘n roll in the purest sense. Unlike the Lloyd Webber/Tim Rice pop/rock scores, or even the more recent rock productions such as Spring Awakening or Rent, there is no Broadway flare to Lizzie, despite Richard Mickey Courtney’s period costumes, Terre Steeds hair and makeup and Daniel Black’s scene-setting lighting design. When the four talented women stand in line behind their mics, facing the audience and belting at full blast, Lizzie looks less like a musical and more like an interpretive, ninety-minute rock concert. It’s as if seventies producer/manager Kim Fowley matured and wrote a concept double-album for The Runaways.

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A/C Theatre Company’s aim is to give local Phoenix audiences an opportunity to enjoy contemporary musicals not always seen in the valley. This is the group’s third production. On the evidence of Saturday night’s sold-out performance, with Lizzie and these four enormously engaging talents behind the mic stands, the company has not only chosen the consummate vehicle to show what can be achieved on a restricted budget and a small cast, it’s upped its game. Like those forty whacks, Lizzie comes at you at full speed with the power of a dangerous weapon and knocks you right out of your Hardes Theatre seat.  It’s a literal blast.

Pictures courtesy of Redline Designs

For more regarding times, dates and tickets, CLICK HERE for the A/C Theatre Company website



Posted in Theatre