Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Phoenix

Debbie Does Dallas
Desert Stages Theatre

Also see Gil's reviews of King Lear, 42nd Street, Joseph..., Shifting Gears, The King and I

Raven Woessner and Cole Brackney
Turning popular films into musicals is nothing new. But turning one of the most well-known porno films into a satirical musical seems like a recipe for failure. However, the wacky and wonderful Debbie Does Dallas, based on the infamous 1970's skin flick of the same name, is a charming, sweet laugh riot of a show with a couple of good songs in the otherwise minimal score. Nearly Naked Theatre's production has a game cast, spirited direction and inventive creative elements that combine to turn this into an evening of campy, mindless fun. It's a delight for the non-discriminating theatregoer who doesn't mind a little skin and sexual innuendo.

The story follows the plot of the film, and Erika Schmidt's humorous adapted script even utilizes some of the actual campy movie dialogue. High school cheerleader Debbie Benton dreams of becoming a Texas Cowgirl Cheerleader (the fictional stand in for the assumedly un-licensable Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders.) She gets a letter inviting her to try out for the squad. The only problem? She has to pay her own way to Dallas and, since Debbie doesn't have the funds to manage the trip, she and her cheerleader friends decide to form a group called "Teen Services" to raise the funds. While they try to do this legitimately, they find they can't raise enough money, so they resort to performing sexual acts to raise the money and send Debbie to Dallas.

For those wondering—no actual nudity or sex acts take place in this production. But there are a couple bare bottoms and several simulated sexual instances, though they are all played for laughs by the very willing cast.

Director Damon Dering has an energetic and eager cast led by Raven Woessner as Debbie. She excels in bringing the ditzy blond cheerleader with a simple dream to vibrant life with her appropriate blank confused looks, a killer body, and a good voice that makes Debbie's aspiration-filled songs soar. The rest of the cheer squad is played by Brandi Bigley, Anna Katen, Hillary Low and Genesis Cuen. The script actually makes each girl unique and gives them a bit of character development, something hard to believe for a musical based on a porno. While all are exceptional at creating ditzy, crazed and comical characters, Bigley gets the best moments as Debbie's romantic rival. Not only does she exude sexuality in spades but she also gets a solo song that she rocks. (Bigley was last seen playing the sweet and non-sexual Maria in The Sound of Music at Hale—talk about doing a 180.)

The men in the cast, Cole Brackney, Jason Steffan and Jimmy Asimenios, play multiple roles with glee. Brackney is an idiotic gem as Debbie's boyfriend and several other porno-centric characters, while Steffan and Asimenios get their moments to shine, particularly as the sexually frustrated men that procure the services of "Teen Services."

Dering provides spirited direction, allowing the cast to have a blast with over the top delivery of some of the more ridiculous lines. Samantha Dutcher's choreography includes some humorous cheers and funny steps, all performed with a wink and nod to the audience. Dering also makes good use of the playing space. While there are several locations needed for the show, he expertly uses Erick Beeck's creatively designed large revolving set pieces that open to reveal interiors of various locations, to swiftly move us from one scene to the next. Doug Loynd's costumes are 1970s porno movie bad, and that's a good thing. His inventive way of showing the ladies topless in the locker room without showing any skin is hilarious. Clare Burnett's lighting is exceptional, providing plenty of vibrant colors and a specific focus to the specific locations of the show.

Debbie Does Dallas is definitely not for everyone. But if you're looking for a fun-filled, campy hoot of a show, with plenty of adult humor and some spirited songs, all delivered by an eager cast, the Nearly Naked Theatre production is zany and mindless fun.

Debbie Does Dallas runs through January 31st, 2015 with performances at Phoenix Theatre's Hardes Little Theatre at 100 E. McDowell in Phoenix. Tickets can be purchased by calling (602) 254-2151 or by visiting

Director: Damon Dering
Music Director: Curtis Moeller
Choreography: Samantha Dutcher
Stage Manager: Joanne Gregg
Scenic Design: Eric Beeck
Lighting Design: Clare Burnett
Sound Design: Will Snider
Costume Design: Doug Loynd

Debbie Benton: Raven Woessner
Lisa: Brandi Bigley
Roberta: Anna Katen
Donna: Hillary Low
Tammy: Genesis Guen
Rick/Hamilton/Mr. Bigtime/Himself: Cole Brackney
Kevin/Mr. Biddle/Mr. Greenfelt: Jason Steffan
Tim/Johnny/Mr. Bradley/Nick/Mr, Hardwick: Jimmy Asimenios

Photo: Nearly Naked Theatre

--Gil Benbrook

Also see the Current Theatre Season Calendar for Phoenix