Kiss %amp; Make Up
nytheatre.com review by David Hilder
August 22, 2007
Fleur, Massachusetts is the (fictional) home of the Fleur Community Players. Said players are presenting a musical farce set in late 19th century France, called "Fingers Crossed," and problems abound. The ingénue has never appeared on stage. The character actress is a pathological liar. The supposed juvenile has a mean streak a mile wide. The diva has a case of nerves that won't quit unless she partakes of the holy power of prescription medication. The makeup artist is in love with the artistic director-cum-leading man, and that fellow must deal with all of the above and then some. Did I mention the Secret Service agent with a yen for show tunes?
Kiss And Make Up is a new musical by Kevin Hammonds and Mark Weiser about the night the President of the United States came to see the Fleur Community Players, but the entire piece is so hoary and uninventive one could be forgiven for thinking it was a long (and justifiably) forgotten piece of theatrical history. Certainly, there can be great fun to be had in farce, but farce requires not just careful construction but also depth of characterization. While the former is occasionally on display here, the latter is woefully lacking.
The cast is surprisingly underpowered, despite some heavy-hitting credits. Avenue Q Tony nominee Stephanie D'Abruzzo lacks panache, and is forced to sing in keys that don't suit her voice. Capathia Jenkins, as the resident diva, has one of two terrific songs in an otherwise tedious score, but she is unfortunately sent to the sidelines early on. David Sabella-Mills plays the artistic director who is forced to play both the leading man and the leading lady; his singing voice is terrific, but his stage presence is not what it could or should be, and he often seems to be working awfully hard to remember his lines (he is not alone in that regard). Patti Perkins, as the character actress, is by far the most successful—perhaps because she has some of the best material, but also surely because she knows what to do with it.
It's possible to see what Hammonds and Weiser are trying to do with Kiss And Make Up, but they are not yet successful. Weiser's tunes are unmemorable and uninvolving, and the lyrics are seldom much better. Plays and musicals about theatre companies are exceedingly difficult to pull off, and Kiss And Make Up adds little to the canon.