Encore Michigan

‘Debbie Does Dallas’ at The Ringwald as tasty as a deep fried Twinkie

Review July 27, 2019 David Kiley

This review has been updated since it was first published:

FERNDALE, Mich.–It is not often readers will see a critic do this, but here goes: Yes, I walked out on Debbie Does Dallas: The Musical at The Ringwald here. But I still recommend going to see it…qualified.

The book on Dallas, The Musical is by Susan L. Schwartz, composed by Andrew Sherman, with Tom Kitt and Jonathan Callicutt providing additional music and lyrics. It is based on the 1978 pornographic film Debbie Does Dallas.

By my standards, this show is pretty bad. It is not really funny to me, except I suppose it is if you buy into the premise of making a silly, stupid musical from a porn movie. But I really don’t like shows that are supposed to be funny just based on the premise. The writing has to be good. And this isn’t. It just feels kind of stupid. But that’s the point, I think.

I’m not a Methodist. I just hate this kind of show. It’s in the same cauldron of unfunny stew for me as the Nunsense plays, Greater Tuna, etc. But people keep going to see them, so what do I know. Right?

The players at The Ringwald who were bringing this porn movie to musical life sans the actual sex scenes are first rate. They are some of the most talented actors around. So, part of my process is trying to figure out why they chose to do it. Whatever their reason, they were having a much better time than I was.

Joe Bailey wears a dress and portrays one of the cheerleaders who is backing up Debbie as she figures out how she is going to earn her way to Dallas for her tryout as a Dallas Cowboy cheerleader. Brandy Jo Plambeck plays several parts. Debbie is played by Lily Belle. Liz Schultz, Tess Hannah, and Maggie Alger play the rest of the girls. Kyle Mitchell Johnson and Brenton Herwat round out the ensemble.

Here is the rather high-falutin description from the show’s licensor:

“The most important theatrical event of the twenty-first century (YACK!), DEBBIE DOES DALLAS is a modern morality tale told as a comic musical of tragic proportions in the language of the rodeo-porno-football circus. The show is the coming-of-age story of an all-American small-town sweetheart named Debbie Benton. Debbie is captain of her high-school cheerleading team, but she dreams of making it to the big time by becoming a Texas Cowgirl Cheerleader. When Debbie receives a letter telling her she has qualified for the professional squad, the only thing that stands between her and the realization of her dream is bus fare to the big city: Dallas. Debbie enlists her teammates, Lisa, Roberta, Donna and Tammy, to get full-time jobs after school and on weekends to help pay for her trip to Dallas. The girls form a company called Teen Services and get jobs, but they quickly realize minimum-wage jobs just don’t pay enough. Luckily, Debbie’s boss, Mr. Greenfelt, has an idea how the girls can raise enough money in time. Debbie tells the girls about Mr. Greenfelt’s idea, and they all agree to try their hands at “little favors” performed with enthusiasm by “good girls.” The girls “work hard for the money” and through sex, sweat and tears, they manage to raise enough money for Debbie to realize her dream and make it all the way to Dallas.”

The show plays like sketch comedy that isn’t very funny–again, by my standards. And I admit to hating about 90% of the sketch comedy I have seen because I don’t ever find myself laughing. The Ringwald has a wonderful tradition of doing bawdy shows. That’s okay. I can groove with some funny bawdy. But this aint it for me.

That I am in the minority on this show can be proved here: “A scream! A saucy, tongue-in-cheek romp.” —The New Yorker. “Hilarious! DEBBIE manages to have it all: beauty, brains and a great sense of humor! The cast is great.” —Time Out NY. “Shamelessly silly, shrewdly self-aware and proud of being naughty. Great fun!” —NY Times. “Racy and raucous, a lighthearted, fast-paced thoroughly engaging and hilarious send-up.” —NY Daily News.

Okay. Whatever….

If you like bawdy, sketch comedy and silly, goofy shows, at least do yourself a favor and smoke some pot or eat some edibles before you go. But take a designated driver who will enjoy the show without the help, if you can find one.

These are terrific actors. I enjoy seeing them when they perform work that rocks. This show reminds me of a restaurant I went to that has an excellent Chef who decided to put deep fried Twinkies on his dessert menu. I get it…don’t take everything so seriously. I don’t. But neither did I want to kill another hour of my life.

If you are down with a deep-fried Twinkie, then have at Debbie Does Dallas. These folks do a great job at producing this show.

Week of 1/27/2020

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