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San Francisco by Richard Connema

The Encore Theatre Presents
Io, Princess of Argos!


The Encore Theatre is currently reviving last year's original hit dramatic cabaret musical Io, the Princess of Argos! until May 19 at the Thick House on 18th Street in San Francisco. The effervescent Beth Wilmurt is repeating her role as the slinky cabaret singer named Io. This 80 minute song-filled musical by Marci Kerr and Mark Jackson won enthusiastic reviews from Bay Area critics last year.

We caught the Sunday night performance and were thoroughly entertained by Ms. Wilmurt and her backup "Grecian chorus" of three. The two piece orchestra of David Babich, who plays various instruments, and Marci herself at the piano are right on the mark.

In case you are not up on your Greek mythology, Io was the daughter of Inachus, King of Argos. Zeus took a liking to this beauty and seduced her. He fell in love with the princess which made Hera, his wife, very unhappy. Hera, a very jealous woman, sought vengeance on the kingdom. After a series of catastrophes, Her father had no other recourse but to exile his daughter from the city. To protect her from his wife, Zeus turned Io into a cow. However, Hera had the last word by putting a fly in the cow's brain which drove Io almost crazy.

The plot of Io, the Princess of Argos! is somewhat different since it is partly based on Aeschyulus' Prometheus Bound. Io has become a chanteuse performing in a lounge. She is now older and maybe wiser, but still svelte in a sinuous cocktail dress. She has lost her horns and looks pretty normal. She tells of her adventures wandering the earth looking for the reason of her exile. She meets the imprisoned Prometheus, bound to a stone for giving fire to the human race. Prometheus prophesies the birth of Hercules who will be born to avenge them for the injustice of randy and capricious gods. Io is not satisfied with this and decides to sing and wander the earth, asking "... Why?"

The 80 minute show contains 13 innovative songs that range from blues to rag to German cabaret. There are wonderful temperamental ballads, show stopping dazzlers, and torch songs. The score has a wonderful beat with a "showbiz" tone and should be recorded. The lyrics are bright and the ballads are full of insight.

Beth Wilmurt has a great velvet voice that traverses well between blues and razzle-dazzle. The backup singers are marvelous. Craig Jessup is a standout, extremely funny as the Oracle and touching as Io's contradictory father. Kevin Clarke is particularly good as Prometheus and Janet Roitz belts a great song toward the end of the production. This show is worthy of an off-Broadway production. Chris Black's choreography is very clever and Mark Jackson's direction is excellent. This is an intimate gem of a musical.

Io, Princess of Argos runs through May 19, at The Thick House, 1695 18th Street, San Francisco. For tickets call (415)401-8081 or visit www.encoretheatreco.org. Five Flights returns to the theater for a final four week run this summer.


Cheers - and be sure to check the lineup of great shows this season in the San Francisco area


- Richard Connema



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