Regional Reviews: Los Angeles
Respect: A Musical Journey of Women
Tired of those provocative, challenging musicals and just want to get down and party? Well, what you want, the Cuillo Centre's got it! Although in this Respect, this musical journey of women may be just what we need to get the estrogen pumping, just as long as you don't mind the subconscious tutorial that goes with it.
Dorothy Marcic has adapted this show from her book, Respect: Women and Popular Music, and created a one woman soapbox (with backup vocals) dedicated to the struggle of females through 20th century music. Dressed in a power suit, Marcic talks about her lineage from her grandmother's trials and triumphs through her own Wisconsin upbringing and interpolating her stories through popular tunes like "Can't Help Lovin' that Man of Mine", "I Am Woman", and "Dedicated to the One I Love."
Marcic has created a clever concept, making women and pop culture go hand in hand, but it would work better if the narrator of the piece were a professional actor. Marcic is a professor at Vanderbilt University and an author of twelve books, but being a lecturer and a writer does not a thespian make. Marcic's dull delivery resembles Tony Robbins as she preaches more than she performs.
Being the smart woman that she establishes in this piece, Marcic relies on the talents of three vocalists to push her messages across; Paulette Dozier, Jeanette Fitzpatrick, and Emily Price are the real stars of this experiment. The trio saves this show from being a complete disaster by forwarding into each era with medleys, solos and group numbers. But by the second act, Marcic's spiel gets tired and all we want to do is listen to the singers plow through years of great music. From time to time, projections of family members and events will flash on each side. During "Sweet Talkin' Guy," Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton are paid homage. And nothing is complete without an audience-participation number of the female empowerment anthem, "I Will Survive."
While tolerating this seminar, why not enjoy the jazz stylings of Paulette Dozier as she jives on "Bill Bailey," or her bluesy technique with "God Bless the Child"? Sometimes Dozier cannot find the link between her lower range and her head voice, and she sounds restrained in places where she needs to belt. But when she gets into a zone with her interpretation of Rosa Parks and the civil rights situation, she gives us chills. Spunky Jeanette Fitzpatrick has a flair for blue-eyed soul as she seduces through "Whatever Lola Wants," but proves her comical stripes as a broken-hearted crybaby with "It Must Be Him," a showstopper no doubt. The comical genius in this troika is Nashville resident Emily Price. Check the repertoire as she breaks down the essence of Betty Boop in the trademark, "I Wanna Be Loved By You."
The trio go through numerous selections but Respect is more a musical concert than revue. Nothing defines that better than Zachariah Phillips' set of a bland white stage with a three piece band (drums, keyboard, guitar) on a second level with two stairs on each side leading to a flat stage. Giving this concert even more resonance is the rock n' roll lighting designed by Ardean Landhuis. Julie Kleiner gives the singers simple choreography to keep them in line, so the pace never slows down.
Respect is supposed to be a celebration of women and pop music. Unfortunately for Dorothy Marcic, talented singers and great songs can only make a show go so far. Marcic just doesn't have the chops to give Respect the energy that it needs to become more than just a self-help concert. And although it may not get Aretha Franklin-like accolades for being groundbreaking and thought provoking, at least it can make even Rodney Dangerfield get up and dance.
Respect: A Musical Journey of Women will play through August 8th at the Cuillo Centre for the Arts, 201 Clematis Street in West Palm Beach. For more information, please call the box office at (561) 835-9226 or www.cuillocentre.com.
CUILLO CENTRE FOR THE ARTS - Respect: A Musical Journey of Women
Starring Dorothy Marcic
Stage Manager: Ryan Mowatt
Musical Direction: Phil Hinton
Scenic Designer: Zachariah Phillips
Directed by Peter J. Loewy
-- Kevin Johnson