She Can't Believe She Said That!
nytheatre.com review by Roger Nasser
September 27, 2008
A celebrity's life story is often the subject matter of films and plays. As a society we are consumed with what is going on in a celebrity's life. Some people know more about what is going on in the life of, say, Oprah than they do of some of their family members'. If you are a fan of someone's you usually want to know how they got to be where they are now. That's why there are show like E! True Hollywood Story or Behind the Music. I know I'm guilty of staring at the television watching the tales of how this or that star got their break out part. She Can't Believe She Said That is a satirical musical about the rise (and fall) of talk show hostess Kathie Lee Gifford (nee Epstein).
She Can't Believe She Said That is exceedingly enjoyable and entertaining. Matt Prager has done an amazing job on book, music, and lyrics. Prager's script is very funny and witty. Prager tells the story of a woman who puts her trust in God to guide her to the life that He (God) wants for her. Personally, I never knew that Kathie Lee was so religious.
I learnt so many interesting details about Kathie Lee watching the show. Prager has written a very well-rounded character even though she is always perky. Some of the songs, especially "You Can Call It Love," are still stuck in my head. Another song that stands out is "Me Plus Christ," which is used at a press conference after the use of child labor in her clothing line's factory comes out.
Josh Hecht does an outstanding job directing. The staging is great and the play moves well. Hecht uses the space wonderfully and uses his talented cast superbly. I also loved Tara Jeanne Vallee's choreography in the show. It isn't a huge dance show but the dance numbers are a lot of fun.
The cast is very talented. Heather Laws is absolutely magnificent as Kathie Lee. Laws has great comic timing. She mimics Kathie Lee so perfectly, especially in the scenes with Regis, that at times I forgot that I wasn't watching Kathie Lee herself. Laws does a great job carrying the show and portrays a sometimes overbearing character with great sincerity and poise. Laws, besides having great acting skills, also has a beautiful voice. Remember the name Heather Laws, because she is a great performer.
The supporting cast is also great, especially Jan Pessano, Brian Gallagher, and Paul Anthony Stewart. Pessano is brilliant as Anita Bryant. Gallagher is very engaging as Paul Johnson, Kathie Lee's first husband. Laws and Gallagher have really nice chemistry. Stewart is terrific as Larry Gatlin. Rob Sheridan and Charles Karel also give notable performances as Frank Gifford and Regis Philbin. Sheridan and Laws are a great pair, they play off of each other very well. Karel does a great impersonation of Regis Philbin, and he and Laws are very convincing as Regis and Kathie Lee.
I did, however, feel that the show dragged on just a bit. Towards the end of the show it got a bit repetitive, especially when the public starts turning on Kathie Lee. I felt that there were too many bits calling Kathie Lee a fake or a phony. It almost made me uncomfortable watching her get insulted over and over again. I realize that poking fun is the whole point of a satire, but Prager could have been a bit wittier during this part. That being said, She Can't Believe She Said That is a lot of fun. Prager and company have done a marvelous job bringing forth an often-times intelligent original musical. Heather Laws is extremely memorable in the leading role. I hope that She Can't Believe She Said That and Heather Laws get their fair share of success.