nytheatre.com review by Michael Criscuolo
May 6, 2007
Gallery Players' new revival of the Blake Edwards-Henry Mancini-Leslie Bricusse musical, Victor/Victoria, is a lot of fun. The pride of Park Slope delivers a hugely ambitious production that is a little rough around the edges, but provides everything a theatergoer could ask of a musical comedy. Director Matt Schicker and a bubbly cast of 20-plus harness their collective energies towards wowing the audience with an old-fashioned dose of musical theatre razzmatazz, and come up victorious.
Based on the 1982 film of the same name, Victor/Victoria tells the story of Victoria, a down-on-her-luck British singer looking for work in the Parisian nightclub scene of the 1930s. She's taken under the wing of Toddy, a middle-aged impresario who has an unorthodox idea: to reinvent Victoria as Victor, a Polish drag queen, and sell her to the clubs in this new guise. It's a gambit that pays off when Victor becomes the toast of Paris.
But, complications arise when Chicago gangster King Marchan arrives on the scene. He is immediately smitten with Victor after seeing his act, but is reluctant to act on his feelings for two simple reasons: he has a girlfriend—a brassy blonde bimbo named Norma—and he's not gay. Victoria feels the same way about King, but can't reveal who she is without jeopardizing her career. What are two people in love to do? Answering that question makes up the giddy brunt of Victor/Victoria.
The most important question, at least from an audience standpoint, might be: does Victor/Victoria need Julie Andrews? I'm happy to report that the answer is a resounding no. Christine Paterson plays the title role here, and she is a genuine triple threat. Paterson handles all the demands of her role—which includes a lot of dancing, dry humor, and Andrews's signature high C—with impressive ease.
John Blaylock scores big as Toddy, providing sturdy, quick-witted comic support. Thomas Poarch is effective as King, fleshing out his humorous quandary in a convincing fashion, particularly in his big solo, "King's Dilemma." Also getting in on the action is Patrick Field, who engages in some poker-faced tomfoolery of his own as King's burly bodyguard, Squash. Best of all is Allison Guinn as Norma, playing the dumb blonde card for all it's worth. Her two big numbers, "Paris Makes Me" and "Chicago, Illinois," are the hilarious, show-stopping highlights of Victor/Victoria.
It's worth mentioning that every member of the entire cast looks like they're having a ball on stage. Their unbridled enthusiasm carries the show, even through its few-and-far-between rough spots. One can't help but enjoy watching performers who are having this much fun.
The physical scope of Gallery Players' production is worth the price of admission alone. Michael Kerns's lavish and versatile set, dominated by two huge sliding wall panels, doesn't skimp on glamour or ambition. Complemented nicely by David Roy's lights and Samantha Fromm's beautiful, full-out costume design, Victor/Victoria is one indie theater production that puts its hard-earned dollars right on stage.
Kudos to Schicker for pulling a production of this magnitude together. There are moments when Victor/Victoria threatens to get away from him and the company—either because of a momentarily pesky set piece or an overabundance of people on stage (the size of both the set and the cast sometimes limit staging options) or a brief miscommunication between the actors and the band—but they all pitch in to keep it on track through sheer force of will and that unbridled enthusiasm I mentioned before. His impressive work shows that he's a firm practitioner of what he preaches in the show's program notes: that Victor/Victoria should "give you that special 'high' that only a good musical can bring." That it does. I was humming and dancing all the way home from the Slope.
With Victor/Victoria, Gallery Players once again proves that they are one of New York City's musical theatre bright spots. This marvelous production closes their season with style and class, and I, for one, can't wait to see what they've got in store for us next year.