Remember that scene in Boogie Nights where Julianne Moore, Heather Graham and Mark Wahlberg had to mouth the clunky dialog of a porn movie and make it sound as though they were truly bad actors yet perfectly sincere at the same time? Now imagine a full ninety minute theatrical production without intermission where all the actors do the same thing; reenact the dialog of a porn flick, act bad yet deliver the lines as though they meant it; at least, that is, in a broadly comedic kind of way.
The flick in this case is the mother of all porn comedies, Debbie Does Dallas, the infamous 1978 Bambi Woods porno where, despite the title, is neither set in Dallas nor does the titular Debbie actually do anyone from there. Debbie Does Dallas: The Musical is a comedy where the dialog is lifted practically verbatim from the original film (so I’m told; don’t laugh). Now in its second week – it runs until the end of the month – Damon Dering’s Nearly Naked Theatre’s new production of the off-Broadway musical has a rough- around-the-edges look to it that is more than appropriate when you consider everyone is parodying a low-budget porno with songs. The girls are fun to watch and the boys… well, all three look as though they really did come straight out of a casting catalog for the golden age of seventies porn, just before amateurs started buying their own video cameras and changed the industry.
The plot is the same. Eighteen year-old Debbie (Raven Woessner) a cheerleader from East Bambi Woods High School – Yay! Ride ‘em hard, Beavers! – has been accepted for a Texas Cowgirl tryout. Two problems; she has no fare to get to Texas and her parents do not approve. “They think it’s outdoor burlesque” whines Debbie, “Can you imagine?”
But her friends jump to the rescue. In order to help Debbie achieve her life-long ambition – to have her pom-poms fly when everyone on the Texas team scores – they form Teen Services, a company where the members offer local stores and businesses help in exchange for cash. Debbie gets a part-time job in a sports store moving boxes around for Mr. Greenfelt (Jason Stefan). “Oh, but I’ve never worked with boxes and stuff like that,” Debbie tells the owner, while the other girls either raise money washing cars or securing jobs in a candle store. Who knew a candle could be used for something other than helping you see in the dark? Will Debbie achieve her goal? Will the girls raise enough cash? Will there be any sex on stage? And what happens to that banana? The answers are, yes, yes, not really, and it gets unzipped.
For a musical, there aren’t many songs when there should be more and what is there are mostly too short. Sondheim lyrics they’re not, but occasionally a musical moment is allowed to shine, as in the best number of the show, Small Town Girl sung with energy and the right amount of fake sincerity from Raven where Debbie laments that “… I’m eighteen now but thirty-five is coming fast.”
In truth, this is all a one-joke show. The best thing the original film ever had going for it was the title, and doing a live musical parody only underlines the same joke rather than creatively adding more. The earlier scenes are the best only because they introduce the style, but the show never develops into anything further other than more of the same. Stray Cat Theatre’s Chicks with Dicks took the Russ Meyer themed biker chick skin flicks of Hollywood and turned them into an intentionally outrageous, chaotic mess, constantly in danger of falling apart. Debbie Does Dallas: The Musical doesn’t quite let lose in the same way. In fact, the show is surprisingly respectful to the original. The best way to enjoy the production, which in its way is every bit as clunky as the dialog, is to simply switch off. Put the critic’s hat aside. You’re not going to find any social commentary slyly buried in the script; there’s nothing deep or meaningful in the send up and you’re not going to come away humming any of the tunes. But you will laugh, particularly in the shower scene and the car wash, not to mention that when Debbie finally puts on that Texas Cowgirl uniform there might even be guys in the audience willing to add an extra ten bucks of their own. And that’s all Nearly Naked Theatre is going for.
For more including times, dates and tickets, CLICK HERE for the Nearly Naked Theatre website.