NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA
Ricky Graham, in collusion with David Cuthbert and Harry Mayronne, Jr., has
fashioned yet another high energy musical satyr play. Daryl's Perils:
Demon Dominatrix Of The Moon Meets The Amazon Queen Of The Lost Lagoon, recently opened at the TrueBrew Theatre on Julia Street, replacing Graham's last long-running venture, ...And The Ball And All, packs so many puns, groaners, takes, double entendres, songs, chases, sight gags, running gags, and just plain old-fashioned camp into its 100 minutes, it fairly takes one's breath away.
Spoofing old pre-TV movie serials and B movies, like Gabor's The Queen From Outer Space and Sheena, Queen Of The Jungle, Mr. Graham's alter ego, Becky Allen, playing two-thirds of the title, sets and grounds the tone of the piece and embues it with her unique brand of self-confident bonhomie.
The first of the two episodes of Daryl's continuing perils, shown to us in black and white, literally, finds the aging hero, Ron Williams (think Buster Crabbe) crash landing on the Moon with his motley crew: Professor Pauline Pritchard (think Ida Lupino), the world's greatest rocket scientist and debutante, played to the hilt by Shelley Poncy, Doctor Proctor, the mad scientist, portrayed by the chameleonic Sean Patterson (who metamorphoses into a simpering Zircon, King of the Moon), and callow ingenuous sidekick Biff, Billy Slaughter (think Bobby Sheffield). They are captured by the Demon Dominatrix and her two handmaidens, Kerry Lynne Mendelson's Nebula and Amanda Zirkenbach's sight gag of a "Straya," whose hubcap headpiece perfectly evokes Copland's architectural abomination. The problem here is that the moon needs a male hairdresser and Daryl is about to be turned into one but our savvy crew escapes just in the nick of time and, traveling through an ominous astroid belt, they land, for the second act, in a mysterious, wildly technicolored jungle where they meet and are threatened by the Amazon Queen and her two handmaidens, the above Zirkenbach and Mendelson, as Latino Adinoydza and Tonsilayo. The snake god must be appeased with a human sacrifice and Daryl is it! Fabu, the Jungle Boy (Billy Slaughter again) runs out of poison darts just as an errant gorilla runs off with Daryl! But not to fear, all is solved when the aging chieftain of the jungle tribe (Sean Patterson) realizes that Pauline is actually his long lost daughter, etc, etc.
The exhibition of theatrical expertise in this venture is truly humbling-every detail has been addressed-from the special glasses the audience is given to view certain special effects scenes to the popcorn and movie usher. The costumes, by Sony Borey's Debby Simeon and Broadway Bound Costumes, are a show in themselves, changing as they do from black and white to Technicolor. Miss Allen's costumes have been fashioned by her own Edith Head-Roy Haylock. Daniel Zimmer's lighting is incredible as it is able to put the focus on the performers and not the audience who are sometimes only inches away from the performers in this closet of a theatre; and, Ron Williams' scenic design, consisting of many, many painted drops and clever set pieces, fill the miniscule TrueBrew space with happy harmony. Sue Gonczy's "creature creations," from the dayglo asteroids to the charming, vaudevillian Snake God himself (Ron Williams again as the hidden puppeteer) add immeasurably to the overall glossy effect of the entire enterprise.
Harry Mayronne's music, coming from a lone synthesizer, is an entire Hollywood orchestra, and enhances the frantic pace while giving the show pizazz. Since comedy is the operative word here, most of the eight songs are extensions of that humor dictating the use of simple metered melodies, which Mr. Mayronne furnishes lavishly.
The entire cast, from Stephen Rizzo who plays a number of roles, Jeffrey Lester's Voice Over, the two chorines Zirkenbach and Mendelson, to Ron Williams, Becky Allen, Shelley Poncy, Sean Patterson and Billy Slaughter, execute the combined choreography of Mr. Graham's totalitarian directives and Karen Hebert's jazz-tap camp choreography with savvy discipline and sunny charm that leaves one gasping for breath. Or maybe it was the hysterical laughing. I was limp and satisfied when it was over-and in need of a cigarette: Daryl's Perils is the perfect alternative to sex.
For the last several days there's
been a smile on my face for the
whole human race after experiencing Michael Howard's astonishingly beautiful production of Lerner and Loewe's musical comedy classic Brigadoon, which had a brief and brilliant life during the 30th anniversary season of Tulane Summer Lyric Theatre. It's (wink) almost like being in love.
A new precedent has been set with this production by which all future efforts will be measured.
Every aspect of the musical director's art and craft were addressed and finessed and Mr. Howard and Company scored a grand slam.
Created by twentysomething Alan Jay Lerner in 1947-fifty years ago (basing his Scottish myth on a poem called Tam O' Shanter by Robert Burns)-Brigadoon is first and foremost a stellar example of good old American musical comedy craftsmanship. The only thing that dates it is its length, written and produced as is was long before the unions imposed their strangling time constraints and late night New York society was more congenial and, well, civilized. (Mr. Howard wisely dropped one scene and its attendant song and tightened other scenes and/or dances as well, effectively dismantling the third of three subplots). Mr. Lerner, as he was quick to explain, wrote all the words, both the book and the lyrics. His invaluable collaborator, Austrian composer Frederick Loewe, contributed the gorgeous, site-specific music.
Tommy Allbright (perfect leading man C. Leonard Raybon) and Jeff Douglas (perfect wisecracking side-kick David W. Hoover) two Americans, lose their way while hunting in Scotland in 1947. They come upon the village of Brigadoon that mysteriously appears to them although they cannot locate it on the map. The townsfolk, clad in their various clan tartans, appear to be members of some kind of operetta to the acerbic Jeff, who is cynicism itself-and imparts a great deal of the comedy. Nevertheless, he is smitten by the town's milk maid Meg Brockie, an equally comic Cynthia Nash. But it is Fiona MacLaren (Melissa Marshall) who falls in love at first sight with Tommy, and he with her (although his love is compromised by his engagement to a New York socialite) that is the main plot. Another major subplot revolves around the marriage of Charlie Dalrymple (John Giraud) and Fiona's younger sister, Jean, (Margot de La Barre) and her angry jilted suitor, the show's dancing antagonist Harry Beaton (Michael Arnold), which precipitates the denouement. Harry, so lovelorn and upset, tries to flee Brigadoon but is luckily killed (by a hapless Jeff who trips him).
The magic of Brigadoon is explained to Tommy Albright and the audience by the town's school master, Mr. Lundie (a beguiling Nikki Barranger): two hundred years ago (in 1747) the Highlands of Scotland were plagued with witches, who were taking the folk away from God's teachings and putting the devil into their souls. Mr. Forsythe, Brigadoon's aged minister, fearing for his flock's fate after his death, decided to ask God for a miracle. Early on a Wednesday morning, he went out to a hill beyond Brigadoon and asked God to make the village and its people vanish into the Highland mist, to reappear in the world for one day every hundred years, not long enough to be touched by the outside world. That was Wednesday; today is Friday. The sacrifice for the miracle was Mr. Forsythe's life, for when God made the town vanish, Mr. Forsythe could not return. If any resident of Brigadoon should leave its borders, the enchantment is broken. Hence, the necessity of Harry's death. With the day fast ending, Tommy, torn between Fiona and his fiancee, Jane Ashton (model-perfect Cassie Steck Worley), returns to New York with Jeff. In New York, he cannot get Fiona out of his mind and, breaking off his engagement to a stunned Jane, he returns to the site of Brigadoon, which miraculously returns for him, so great and true is his love for Fiona. Love overcomes cynicism and wins.
Every member of the enormous cast owned his or her role so completely as to defy disbelief in this far-fetched story.
But it was the music, and its ethereal rendering, that sent this show over the rainbow, through the thoroughly professional ministrations of musical director Pamela Legendre and her equally professional performers, led by the dynamic, toothsome Marshall whose powerful and yet tender vocal histrionics were downright thrilling. C. Leonard Raybon was her equal in everyway. Their various duets, The Heather On The Hill, Almost Like Being In Love and the affecting and beautiful From This Day On, illuminated their progressive feelings for each other in an absolutely truthful and direct way-illustrating the incredible power of song to tell a story and create deep emotions in its listeners.
John Giraud as Charlie Dalrymple was also most impressive displaying a lyric baritone that easily soared into the rarified tenor zone, especially in his charming Come To Me, Bend To Me, such an appropriate song since his bride, the lovely Margot de La Barre, does not sing but instead expresses herself through dance.
Alton Geno, Tulane Lyric's crackerjack choreographer, wisely mimicked the balletic charm of this show's only Tony winner, Agnes DeMille, staging ballets, reels, chase scenes and the renowned Sword Dance (the wedding highpoint) with wit and economy, made all the more difficult by the severe space constraints on the old, creaking Dixon Hall stage.
Indeed, the boards fairly groaned under the weight of Rick Paul's impressive main set unit, an emmence ramped and stepped "highland" around and above which dropped or rolled the various units needed to denote everything from a 200 year old Scottish town square to a New York City bar. Coupled with the lavender washes of Michael Batt's sensitive lighting and Gail Parent's picture-perfect costumes, every element in this impressive production was first rate. Also of special note were the contributions by Linda and Don Guillot's immaculate hair and make-up.