Center Stage with Pat Launer on KSDS JAZZ88
May 4, 2012
We’ve come a long way, Baby – from docile, dutiful and dependent wifeys to strong, assertive, self-sufficient CEOs. The glass ceiling is still there, but we’ve been attacking it with baseball bats.
There’s a music and rhythm to the ascension of women over the past century – and Dorothy Marcic knows the score. A Management professor at Columbia University, she started punctuating her lectures on male-female equality with pop songs, realizing that Top 40 hits actually chronicle the recent history of women. This led to a book and then a one-woman show she performed for several years before expanding it to a 4-person “musical celebration.”
“Respect: A Musical Journey of Women” has visited four cities so far. But the producers are so happy with the current. local cast, they’re thinking of taking them on an extended tour.
They do make for a formidable quartet: the redoubtable Leigh Scarritt; blues/jazz wonderwoman Lisa H. Payton; mellow-voiced, humorous Nancy Snow Carr; and show-stealing ingénue, Kelsey Venter.
According to Murcic , who interlaces her own multi-generational family story with historical factoids, figures and eras, there were three stages in women’s emancipation and evolution, embodied by the rebel teen, slightly older cynic and mature, hopefully wiser adult. These don’t come through in the show, which freely mixes timeframes. And the supposedly illustrative overhead projections sometimes distract, either because they’re too dim or the people are not sufficiently identifiable. So, as is often the case with this kind of jukebox musical, the linking narrative is the weak link.
Still, there’s much to respect about “Respect.” First, the walk down musical memory lane is great fun, spanning everything from “Someone To Watch Over Me” to “If I Knew You Were Comin ’ I’d’ve Baked a Cake,” from “Where the Boys Are” to “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun,” “These Boots are Made for Walkin ’,” “I am Woman” and “I Will Survive.” Why no writing credits are given in the song list is a mystery.
But there’s no mystery about the vocal talent, and the fresh, often exciting arrangements by musical director Cris O’Bryon , with excellent backup from a knockout band . The choreography is lackluster, and the costumes aren’t flattering or varied enough. The set is minimalist, with center-stage stairs that seem to unnerve the performers at times.
Really, though, the whole effort is about the 50 fabulous songs, a lightweight but irresistible expression of nostalgia and empowerment. The enthusiastic opening night audience – male and female – was more than willing to sing, stomp and clap along. This is an obvious Gals’ Night Out, but guys will enjoy it, too. The high energy, unabashedly entertaining show lures you in with a pop refrain: “I’m Gonna Make You Love Me.”
“RESPECT” runs through June 24 at the Lyceum Theatre in Horton Plaza.
©2012 PAT LAUNER