Center Stage with Pat Launer on KSDS JAZZ88
September 30, 2011
It’s about making the best of a bad situation. Like Brad and Janet in “The Rocky Horror Show.” Or the Biblical Joseph, enslaved in Egypt without his “Technicolor Dreamcoat .” Or Patty and Margaret, trapped in an overcrowded airport in “Walter Cronkite is Dead .”
Joe Calarco’s 2010 comic duet employs an overused literary trope: foul weather forces two disparate types together. Patty is brash and Southern; proudly blue-collar, Christian and politically conservative. Tight-lipped, uptight Margaret is a well-heeled, Northeastern liberal snob. In no time, they’re drinking wine, revealing secrets, similarities and shared disappointments – in their children, their religion and themselves. The play, effectively directed by Shana Wride at the San Diego Repertory Theatre, offers few revelations, and both playwright Calarco and actor Ellen Crawford make Margaret somewhat less than believable. But Melinda Gilb is spectacular as Patty: perfectly credible and hugely likable in her hyperverbosity . Cronkite is invoked as a symbol of civil discourse – and we could all use a heavy dose of that these days –- sitcom-y or otherwise.
And we could all benefit from a little musical diversion – especially of the intentionally outlandish type. Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Technicolor Dreamcoat ” was created in 1968 for a school choir. San Diego Musical Theatre returns to those roots, assembling an 18-member children’s chorus, age 6-16, for this large-scale production, directed by Ron Kellum . The kids are cute, but don’t add much, musically or dramatically.
The adult cast of 25 is strong, headed by former San Diegan and Broadway veteran Eric Kunze , he of the mellow, potent voice, and well-developed pecs and abs. Talented Bethany Slomka is a lively Narrator, but she’s overmiked and comes across shrill. Don LeMaster conducts a 15-piece orchestra, which nails the wild pastiche of musical styles.
The Egypt scenes are all glitz – in costume, design and choreography, though I don’t know about ancient Israelite women belly dancing in spangled bras. But overall, for this perennial that’s equal parts silly and sentimental, the production delivers the goods.
Nothing, however, delivers like Richard O’Brien’s “The Rocky Horror Show.” The Old Globe production seemed hexed, losing its director and leading man. But James Vásquez and Matt McGrath stepped up to the plate and knocked it outta the park. You’ve gotta like sex and raunch and sci-fi. And be ready to do “The Time-Warp” at the end. There’s one ballad that was understandably cut from the film, but everything else hews close to the beloved midnight cult movie. The show gets off to a slow, un-erotic, non-rocking start. But boy, does it pick up steam, with a terrific cast, great visuals, vocals and band, killer costumes, and titillating choreography.
If you’re a “Rocky Horror” virgin, prepare to be violated. If you’re a fan, you’ll be very well sated. Dress up, go crazy, get into it. Don’t dream it, be it!
The San Diego Musical Theatre production of ” Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat ” runs through October 9 at the Lyceum Theatre in Horton Plaza.
“Walter Cronkite is Dead ” plays through October 16 at the San Diego Repertory Theatre in Horton Plaza.
“The Rocky Horror Show” continues through November 6 in The Old Globe Theatre in Balboa Park.
©2011 PAT LAUNER