CAST’s musical comedy proves victorious
Written by: Megan O’Connell
A woman pretending to be a man pretending to be a woman?” is the theme of the stylish and charming musical “Victor/Victoria” at the Clinton Area Showboat Theatre.
With music by Henry Mancini and lyrics by Leslie Bricusse, “Victor/Victoria” is a story of joy amidst personal discovery. The musical comedy brings the audience into 1930s Paris where select clubs are showcasing the talents of homosexuals and female impersonators. Though troubled by occasional technical difficulties, the production’s worth is measured by a plucky cast, backed by a revealing story which makes for an entertaining evening
Victoria Grant (played by Catherine Ogden) is an out-of-work actress who auditions for the nightclub Chez Luis, and once more, finds herself without work. When she is befriended by Toddy (Jay Berkow), the club’s former gay performer, she finds shelter for the night and a sympathetic friend. While spending the night, Victoria sleeps in the pajamas of Toddy’s former lover. When said lover shows up to claim his clothes, it is Victoria who punches him while dressed as a man. With the ex-lover running from Victoria, Toddy creates the idea for Victoria to dress as a man. Not just any man, but a woman impersonator. With one song, he turns Victoria into a man, Victor.
“Victor” is the toast of Paris when the plot escalates as Chicago club owner King Marchon (Patrick Stinson) falls in love with “Victor” but refuses to believe Victor is a man. He challenges not only Victoria’s identity, but his own as this musical questions social mores instilled since youth.
Director Craig Miller’s production enfolds the audience with comedy while playfully challenging conservative views of alternative lifestyles. The production’s pacing was consistent throughout scenes and musical numbers, though it wavered during long scene changes.
Ogden’s Victoria is a sweet combination of trepidation and yearning. She delivers her songs with a tentativeness that grows stronger as the performance progresses. Her voice soars in ballads such as “Crazy World” or “Living in the Shadows”. It is in snappy numbers like Le Jazz Hot that Ogden’s energy begins to blossom. However she does not reach her full potential until she hits her stride.
The role of Toddy enables an actor to insert nuances into the comedic moments of the character. Berkow’s Toddy proved charismatic and a delight to watch, though he did not fully tap into the character’s spectacle. His moments with Ogden added a depth of friendship to this production.
Patrick Stinson’s King Marchon blended a self-assured man with one who questions his previous thoughts on men, women, and sexuality. His song “King’s Dilemma” offered the audience a glimpse into a few of the tumultuous feelings that drove the character.
Megan Kramer plays Norma Cassidy, King’s jealous gangster moll who convinces his partner that King is homosexual (a lifestyle not embraced by ’30s gangsters). Kramer provides the audience with a comedic blend of tartness and seduction. Her flapper number “Chicago, Illinois” demonstrated her singing and dancing abilities.
Other characters supported the leads such as King’s bodyguard, Squash, played by Gregory Harrell, another man who discovers his own identity through the relationship between “Victor” and his boss. Harrell’s delivery let the audience see beyond the typical mobster goon.
The ensemble added to the production as several actors played gangsters, dancers and club members. Among those that added to the comedic elements of the musical were Scott Bellot’s Choreographer, William Mosgrove as talent agent Andre Cassell and Jack Curl as King’s gangster business partner.
The scenic design by Christopher P. Kay was functional for shifting from nightclub stage to hotel rooms. However, the design was poorly executed when panels in the set revealed part of the backstage, and doors refused to stay on their hinges.
Micah Rahn’s lighting design helped to create a nightclub mood in areas, but often left actors on the side without light. Costume designer Rebecca Hadley’s costumes were a colorful template that added to the production’s sparkle. Choreography by Jay Berkow was reminiscent of the 1982 film in several numbers. Musical director Andrew Gerle leads a four-person orchestra that supported the action onstage without overpowering it.
Visit the Clinton Area Showboat Theatre for a unique musical theatre experience that will leave you with a lighter heart and a tune to hum.