at write Act Theatre at St. Stephen’s
Reviewed by Claudia Grazioso
Directed by Stefan Novinski, this is an amiable, if unpolished production. The pace is a little languorous, but the songs by Clyde Derrick (who also wrote the book), though not entirely memorable, are jaunty, occasionally humorous, and fun. Set in 1902, the story follows the attempt of prim Alicia McIvor (Marin Van Vleck) to break out of the monotony of her town and to defy the conventions of traditional female roles. Her quest takes her to a brothel run by Big Sal (Rebecca Klingler), where she befriends the prostitutes, particularly Mona (Victoria Charters), falls in love with the dashing Randolph Weston (Geoff Erwin), and deeply scandalizes her parents (Adan Menken and Von Rae Wood).
The large cast gives game, good-natured performances, with Van Vleck, wisely cast as the lead, particularly standing out, Klinger and Charters add gumption and heart, respectively; Wood, as the fragile-constitutioned Winifred McIvor, also brings life and depth to the stage.
Overall the book is thin, and too frequently the dialogue feels like small windups to the next song. Perhaps as a result most of the characters feel a little stock, with the exception of Alicia. When else in musical theatre has the heroine run away to a brothel, lost her virginity, and posed as a whore to get her man?
Derrick’s work is frustrating because his story skims the surface of many darkly interesting ideas. He is clearly capable of sharp and insightful wit, but here he veers toward melodrama and somewhat maudlin backstory explanations of his characters’ motivations. The music is accomplished, though the cast as a whole seems to struggle through a few of the songs. The group numbers are the most successful, and Van Vleck again stands out as the most able singer.
Though it’s a difficult space to play in, with a raised and recessed stage, the set could stand to be a bit more full. That might help to complete a feeling of onstage spectacle.