Center Stage with Pat Launer on KSDS JAZZ88
AIRDATE: SEPTEMBER 11, 2009
Clever song titles can be priceless. But if the musical doesn’t deliver the goods, in the form of equally memorable melodies and lyrics, it’s no bargain. Such is the case with the L.A. import, “It’s the Housewives !, ” a trifle of a show, loosely based in fact, about homemakers turned rockstars . Their songs are all about, well, housework. There’s “The Reynolds Rap,” “In Sink and At Your Disposal,” and on the subject of vacuuming, “It Sucks.” Trouble is , they’re all just ideas, with nothing behind them. The musical numbers are riffs on pop/rock styles, the title-line is repeated over and over, and they contribute nothing to the story, which is your well-worn, rise-and-fall stardom tale à la “ Dreamgirls ” or “Jersey Boys” — without the sex, drugs or immorality. Absolutely nothing new here, and the framing device is kinda lame: disenchanted ex-Housewife tells sordid details to plumber, who tries to sell story to the tabloids.
Everyone is trying so hard to be liked and laughed at, that the whole overexaggerated affair looks and feels like it’s totally pre-packaged, lip-synched along with the pre-recorded music. Hard to imagine that this was a big hit last year in L.A. , where it had a four-month run. The three leads are talented. But at the 10th Avenue Theatre downtown, the sound is problematic and the entire effort seems sophomoric and self-congratulatory. Still, if you’re up for heralding home economics, be my guest.
Now, if you’re looking for a witty and charming new small-cast musical, head up to North Coast Repertory Theatre for “I Love You Because.” Thematically, it doesn’t break any new ground either, and it’s also way too long for a puff-piece. But it was inspired by Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice,” and it has a little something to say about the attraction of opposites. Everyone’s been dumped at one time or another, and had to endure the misguided suggestions of well-meaning friends.
Here, the advice is particularly comical; it all comes down to numbers in “The Actuary Song,” which determines Rebound Time by calculating Relationship Length, Number of Former Boyfriends and the all-important Bitterness Factor. And oh yes, while you’re waiting for Mr. Right, you should systematically seek out Mr. Wrong, as a kind of place-holder.
On the guy side, the philosophy is more like “Screw, Baby, if you’ve been screwed.” Joshua Salzman’s music may not be unforgettable, but Ryan Cunningham’s lyrics are whip-smart and well crafted. And the cast is terrific: comically agile, vocally gifted and excellently directed, by SDSU musical theater prof Rick Simas. The live music is well executed, the costumes are a hoot. And these four somewhat cynical New Yorkers, so imprudent and ill-advised, wind up, predictably, in thrall to the most unlikely mate. Ain’t love grand?
“I Love You Because ” runs through September 27 at North Coast Repertory Theatre in Solana Beach .
“It’s the Housewives!” continues through September 27 at the 10th Avenue Theatre, downtown.
©2009 PAT LAUNER