The Cuillo Centre for the Arts and Makeover Productions presents Makeover, a contemporary musical fairy tale with book, music and lyrics by Mark Poncy. The musical recently enjoyed a month long run at the Hollywood Playhouse in Hollywood, Florida, before returning home to the Cuillo where it received several public readings back in 2007.
Makeover tells the story of Valerie, who unwittingly makes a deal with the devil in order to secure her lifelong dream of being beautiful. Along the way she realizes she has almost lost sight of the treasures that she had possessed all along. Just in time, she regains her nearly lost inner beauty found through the love of, and for, her husband and children. This seemingly simple and timeless tale is told in a dark and twisted style similar to that of Tim Burton.
The show has its heart in the right place, though some of the plot point pillars are a bit shaky. Makeover is at its best in moments of bigger-than-life, comical fantasy. The audience delights in the antics of Satan, ably acted by an impish Jack James, and his rubber-faced sidekick Eyesore, played by Debbie Goldberg. The melodic introduction of the nuclear Dugan family in "Hello Everybody" is most winning, and there is even an unexpected barbershop quartet moment in the enjoyable "Your Just A Man."
Katie Angell Thomas is an eyeful as the fit and attractive Valerie, and is nicely matched with James Cichewicz as husband Joe. Jenny Skylark is sassy as Loola, and Debbie Goldberg does a lovely job singing "Old Fashioned Love." The Dugan children are nicely played by Mariah Telesca and Carson Hausmann, and Harry Bayron shows acting versatility in various roles throughout the show.
The realms of Makeover that wander toward reality or the conflict of conscience are a bit unstable in this production. The song and scene "Mauler's Meat Market" desperately needs to be cut, and a subplot presented in "Once Upon A Life," though well and warmly sung by Don Stanfield, comes from nowhere and is later resolved without any plot development. The use of ceiling-suspended rings is oddly used just for one scene, though it easily could have been used effectively as a repeated hypnotic device to further the plot. The amusing argumentative banter of the teenage children should have been left without the addition of the sister pushing and punching her brother as they exit. The message behind the action is no less objectionable simply because it is a female who is hitting a male rather than a male hitting a female. On the night attended, the sound system in the first scene had a muffled quality, that made it difficult to understand.
Makeover has promise and appeal in the market of new and emerging works. Substantial changes and growth have occurred since the production at the Hollywood Playhouse. I look forward to seeing how much further it can go as the minor imperfections are ironed out. Perhaps it will have a mini-makeover of its own.
Makeover opened on October 11, 2008 at the Cuillo Centre for the Arts, and is currently appearing in an open-ended run. The Cuillo offers year round professional theatre in both their 337 seat Mainstage theatre, and their new 45 seat Second Story Theatre featuring cabaret-style concerts. The theatre is located at 281 Clematis St. in downtown West Palm Beach, FL. For tickets and information you may contact them by phone at 561-835-9226, or online at www.cuillocentre.com.
*Designates a member of Actors' Equity Association, the union of Professional actors and stage managers in the United States.