A daffy, cartoony, good-natured homage to way too many films and musicals.
NY Theater Review By Joel Benjamin
The cold cream must have been flowing in the dressing rooms at Times Square Arts Center where Fabulous! The Queen of New Musical Comedies is percolating five times a week. The quick changes from drag to straight and back again must be exhausting for this hard-working, talented cast. But, all the effort is worth it. Fabulous, a slightly confused parody/pastiche musical is good natured, energetic and lots of fun. The program notes make it clear that the creative team wanted to create an homage to films like Some Like It Hot and shows like Anything Goes, but there are more than a few references to Gentlemen Prefer Blondes in the blonde vs. brunette lead couple and allusions to all the Shakespearean gender-bending comedies where suspension of disbelief comes with the package. A lot of suspension of disbelief—and good sense—is necessary to enjoy the hijinks of Fabulous which, literally, takes drag chorines Laura Lee and Jane on a voyage of self-discovery and romantic adventures.
Stuck in a dreary show at the Merde Hole in Paris where the leading lady, Soufflé gets shot, Laura Lee (Nick Morrett) and Jane (Josh Kenney) decide to take a job on the Good Ship Ethel May which is taking its last crossing under the ownership of the total nitwit, Sir Alfred Dooalot (Cameron Lucas). On board are four supposedly talentless cruise staff members who are drafted by tough cookie, cruise director Sylvia (Jane Aquilina) to be her back-up chorus as she assembles a perfectly dreadful act. Sylvia’s plans are thwarted by the arrival of Jane and Laura Lee whom she harasses with the help of her scared stooge Stewey (Owen Wingo) whom she blackmails into doing her dirty work. Meanwhile a brother-sister team of thieves (Natalie DePuy & Bryan Seastrom) illegally boards the Ethel May in search of a diamond necklace which Laura Lee has stolen from Soufflé and they, too, get caught up in romantic confusion that is the Ethel May. Too complicated? Just wait…there’s more: Handsome Hollywood leading man Rock (Adam Kemmerer) shows up, revving up the hormones of virtually every man and woman on board. But, Rock harbors secrets of his own as he finds himself attracted to Jane, which is odd considering he is gay. And so the silly plot turns and turns, helped along by the zippy, period-perfect songs by Dan Derby (book and lyrics) and Michael Rheault (music) and Mary Lauren’s delightfully dippy choreography.
No one is who he or she seems to be and everyone has a secret. Despite some wacko inconsistencies, all is ship-shape by the end; you can count on that!
Nick Morrett is a plus size, bewilderingly light-on-his-feet performer with a strong voice. (All the singing was un-miked.) Josh Kenney gets to sing a doleful, self-doubting “Just Me,” adding some emotional depth to a sweet comic performance. Sylvia is played by Jane Aquilina who goes a bit overboard playing tough and manly and is certainly not helped by her particularly and purposefully ugly costumes. (Costumes are by Maya Graffagna, who otherwise confusingly clothed the cast in items from different periods.) As the two cartoony thieves, Ms. DePuy and Mr. Seastrom are the most cartoony characters, but they are given good-natured life by these two. Handsome Adam Kemmerer plays his confusion well and also has a great voice. Cameron Lucas as the silly Sir Alfred and Owen Wingo, as the nebbishy Stewey, do cartoonish well. Clearly Rick Hamilton, the director, was in synch with the writers and kept the caricatures flowing.
The production is sweetly second rate with Kathleen Moriarty’s sets constantly folding and unfolding to reveal different locations. Michael Rheault played his score with great skill, not to mention, a sense of humor.
*Photos: Rick Berube
Fabulous! The Queen of New Musical Comedies
Opened September 8th, 2014
Times Square Arts Center, 2nd Floor
300 West 43rd St. at 8th Ave.
New York, NY
Tickets: 800-838-3006 ext. 1 or www.BrownPaperTickets.com
More Information: www.fabulousthemusicalcomedy.com