Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: San Francisco

6th Street Playhouse
Review by Patrick Thomas

Also see Richard's reviews of Pardon My Invasion and Road Show

Taylor Bartolucci DeGuilio
In its original Broadway incarnation, Victor/Victoria didn't make much of a splash. Critics generally panned the show, and it ran less than two years, just long enough for Julie Andrews and husband/producer/writer Blake Edwards to recoup their investment. That was 25 years ago, and time hasn't been completely kind to Victor/Victoria. The subject matter is still timely—there are unfortunately still plenty of people who have a revulsion response when they see two men kiss—and the farcical, slamming-door nature of the story translates well from the screen to the stage. Composer Henry Mancini and lyricist Leslie Bricusse have provided a couple of great up tempo numbers ("Le Jazz Hot" and "Chicago, Illinois") and the book by Blake Edwards has an actual plot and quite a few very funny lines. But there's something antique and creaky about Victor/Victoria that doesn't translate well to today's post-gay sensibilities.

Or maybe its just the rather vapid production of the show now playing at 6th Street Playhouse that's the problem. Though it boasts some good singers (including at least one young performer to keep an eye on) and quite excellent choreography, this iteration of Victor/Victoria galumphs its way across the GK Hardt stage like a drunken linebacker in heels. It is consistently leaden where it ought to be light.

The story is fun, a farce of almost Shakespearean scale. Victoria (Taylor Bartolucci DeGuilio) is a down-on-her-luck diva with a high G who, while stuck in Paris, meets cute with Carroll Todd (Tim Setzer), a would-be impresario who's nearly as impoverished as the unemployed soprano. Todd (Toddy to his friends) invites Victoria to share his bed, insisting it's much more comfortable than the couch, and just as safe. "After all," Toddy says, "I'm gay."

In the morning, after Toddy's angry ex-boyfriend bursts in and mistakes Victoria for a man (because shes wearing the ex's pajamas and one of Toddy's hats), a plot is hatched: Victoria will become Victor, world's greatest female impersonator, and make them both rich.

The plan works fine—until Chicago gangster King Marchan (Anthony Guzman) gets an eyeful of Victoria and is smitten. Or should I say Prince Marchan because the baby-faced Guzman is incredibly miscast in this role. Don't get me wrong, he has a strong voice and charming stage presence, but teenagers don't end up kingpins in the Chicago rackets. Guzman is worth watching, but he should be playing Danny from Grease or Tony from West Side Story or even Lt. Cable from South Pacific. Not a mob boss.

Fortunately, Marchan brings with him his current moll, the ditzy Norma (Abbey Lee). I say fortunately, because this is a role that's fun to play, but easy to overplay, and Lee takes us right to the edge—but never over. Though in the first act she teeters close to the precipice of the caricature dumb blonde, by act two she finds her footing and runs away with the show. Her exasperated sigh, a sharp, oscillating exhalation, is a perfect comic moment and Lee's performance is one of the very best things about this production.

Its Setzer's Toddy, however, who gets most of the show's best lines. When Norma exclaims, "I just love Frenchmen!" Toddy deadpans "So do I." Norma later complains it's a waste that such a handsome man is gay and Toddy replies, "Trust me its not wasted." Of Victorias physique he says, "Dietrich saw those legs and has been wearing trousers ever since."

As Victoria, DeGuilio's voice is pleasant enough, but her vibrato registers on the Richter scale and her comic timing isn't quite in synch with Setzer's.

The show is at its best during the dance numbers, thanks to Staci Arriaga's wonderful choreography. The moves she gives her company are respectful of the time frame of the action (Paris in the '30s), yet with a contemporary flair. Given how blandly directed the rest of the action is, this production would likely be better off if the reins were in the hands of Arriaga rather than director Michael Ross. (In a similar vein, ensemble member LC Arisman deserves a promotion, as well: her moments are the most natural and genuine of any performer on stage.)

Victor/Victoria failed to meet expectations in its original run and, sad to say, this production won't do anything to lift the show's reputation.

Victor/Victoria runs through February 2 in the GK Hardt Theatre at the 6th Street Playhouse, 52 West 6th Street, Santa Rosa. Shows are Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 p.m., and Sundays at 2:00 p.m. Tickets are $28 general, $23 for seniors and $15 for children 12 and under on Thursdays, $35 general, $30 for seniors and $15 for children on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Tickets are available online at, by calling the box office at (707) 523-4185 or during open Box Office hours.

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

- Patrick Thomas

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