Are You There God? It's Me, Karen Carpenter
This pop-culture frolic was scripted by Dane Whitlock, author of such like-minded mash-ups as "Little House on the Prairie-oke" and "I Totally Know What You Did Last Summer." From what I gather, the Margaret send-up is an affectionate one, as it deals humorously with all sorts of adolescent angst from kissing games to menstruation and much, much more touched on and sometimes trampled upon.
Director Brandon Mack obviously loves this kind of goofiness, but never lets it get out of control. He also has found the right actors, who embrace it with glee. Emily Rose Frasca is ideal as Margaret, playing the role as heightened reality, not as farce, which is perfect for the central character, and her vocals on several tunes from the Carpenter canon are ideal (even when the miking system is making cameo appearances and disappearances throughout as it did the night I attended). As her faux-BFF Nancy, Olivia Lee ventures into near David Lynch territory and earns big laughs with this approach. The girls are part of a secret club whose two other members are Gretchen and Janie, played by the wonderful Abbey Roads and Shermona Mitchell. Roads is a new face to me, and plays the plump girl with humor and yet dignity, and Mitchell gives another ace performance as the token African-American girl with a manipulative side.
Cedric Wright could have wandered in from Sixteen Candles as Margaret's heartthrob and also scores as a lisping Jewish boy named Norman. Stephanie Graham is chameleonic in multiple roles and does a fine with her impression of Karen Carpenter, a vocal style not easily emulated. Jay Irwin in several drag matron roles jumps in with both heels forward, the most successful of which is his Jane Wyatt mixed in a blender with Aunt Bee take on Margaret's mother. The rest of the ensemble is just fine, and flexibly fill several roles apiece.
Music director Joshua Zimmerman handles his chores well, though some better harmonizing (I missed the Richard Carpenter back-ups in the songs) would have helped, and the band members need to be infused with more of the character of the actors in this kind of piece. Elizabeth Richmond Posluns' choreography has just the right amount of kitsch and snappiness. The set by Brandon Estrella is a romp through old-sitcom land, and lighting design by John Huddlestun hits the mark. As for the costumes by Cherelle and Jonelle Ashby, thank you for bringing back the nightmare that was '70s-early '80s youth apparel.
Are You There God? It's Me, Karen Carpenter runs through June 27, 2015, at Richard Hugo House 1634 11th Avenue on Seattle's Capitol Hill. Tickets: www.brownpapertickets.com or at the door. For more information go to seattlestageright.org.