Encore Michigan

Slipstream’s song-filled Showbiz satire hits its mark

Review September 15, 2018 Amy J. Parrent

FERNDALE, Mich.–So, EncoreMichigan readers, what is not to love about a show that ruthlessly skewers everything in show business–including reviewers. (Says one character of another: “She hates theater–she’s a critic.”)

That critic –coincidentally named Lita Encore(!) –takes the form of a dippy, mean woman who’ll even pan her own granddaughter’s school performance. A woman who totters around like a human bobble-head while taking pride in having caused a thousand shows to close. A woman who sings a song in this musical about how much she hates musicals.

OK, for some reason I’m fixating on that character. Every character in this wild spoof at Slipstream Theatre Initiative is a delicious, marvelous, musical dysfunction. They’re each a cauldron of naked ambition, hidden agendas, and nefarious narcissism. And the more you know about legendary plays and movies such as Gypsy or All About Eve, the more you’ll enjoy certain referential moments.

Slipstream is the first theater in the U.S. to perform this revised version of a 1992 Off-Broadway show, with music by Marvin Laird and book and lyrics by Joel Paley. (It is also the Ferndale theatre’s first musical.)

The show opens in the home of precociously talented eight-year-old Tina Denmark. Her vacant mother Judy whiles away the days imbibing a Cosmo-like drink which seems to be composed of cleaning products. They’re visited by a grandiose, mysterious would-be agent, Sylvia St. Croix. Soon St. Croix is pushing Tina to take a rather dramatic step to advance her budding career, an incident which precipitates Judy’s realization about her own talents, and family.

But a simple synopsis cannot convey the farcical mayhem, the dozen small, almost-throwaway bits happening in every scene. The animated cast heads full-bore into this, thoroughly enjoying their own caricatures, all the while belting out the score in a way that’d make Patti LuPone proud.

Kimberly Alley plays Tina as bright-eyed and very ruthless, the character a hybrid of Baby June in “Gypsy” and Amma in “Sharp Objects.” Diana Turner is Sylvia St. Croix, the power behind the throne – all the thrones. (According to director Bailey Boudreau, the part is usually performed by a man, but he couldn’t resist employing Turner’s skills here.)

Mandy Logsdon is the wonderfully goofy theatre critic, while Claire Jolliffe brings great, athletic energy to the frustrated ex-actor-turned-Tina’s teacher, Ms. Thorne. Jackson Abohasira is goofily self-involved as two members of the Denmarks’ nemesis family. (He also designed the sets and lighting.)

And Rachel Biber wonderfully exhibits a real character arc (along with a strong singing voice), as her bewildered Judy metamorphosizes into entertainment diva Ginger Del Marco.

Jay Smith is the cast’s vocal director, while Wayne State senior Madelyn Sly ably guides the show’s musical moments. And Boudreau has helped the cast navigate through the pitfalls that such exaggerated material can bring.

In summary? This critic liked this musical.

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