BWW Review: Gold Dust Orphans Go Greek
Producer, Book & Lyrics, Ryan Landry; Director, Larry Coen; Costume & Set Design, Scott Martino; Musical Director, Tim Lawton; Choreography, Gabriel Nesser; Scenic Artist & Set Design, Brian Riordan; Lighting Design, Michael Clark Wonson; Video Design, Garrett Herzig
CAST: Taryn Cagnina, MacMillan Leslie, Michael Underhill, Vanessa Calantropo, Tim Lawton, Malari Martin, Robin JaVonne Smith, Meghan Edge, Kiki Samko, Larry Coen, Ryan Landry, Qya Marie, Sarah Jones, Jack Ferdman, Scott Martino, Gabriel Nesser, William York, Holly Bourdon, Matt Kyle
Performances through June 4 by the Gold Dust Orphans at The Ramrod Center for the Performing Arts, Machine Nightclub, 1254 Boylston Street, Boston, MA; Tickets http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/2737766
Greece is the word and the place where Ryan Landry and his Gold Dust Orphans take you for their latest musical extravaganza. It's 1950 B.C., the gods are gathered on Mt. Olympus, and the mean girls and toga-clad boys are returning to Olympia High School with a new student in their midst. Will Sandy steal the heart of heartthrob Danny, or can Pandora Spox lure him away, or will he remain loyal to his Titan buddies? Zeus, Venus, and Aphrodite may be pulling the strings and tossing thunderbolts, but true love is a formidable foe.
One of the hallmarks of any Orphans show is a mash-up of story lines and Greece may just be the MOAT (mother of all time), mixing the high school hijinx from Grease, with the narratives of numerous characters from Greek mythology and Clash of the Titans. In addition to the big three of Zeus (Larry Coen), Venus (Landry), and Aphrodite (Qya Marie), the roster includes Icarus (Michael Underhill), Hades (Tim Lawton), Hera (Sarah Jones), Narcissus (Gabriel Nesser), and Medusa (William York). When Zeus' only daughter Cassandra commits the offense of hanging out with mortals, he punishes her by sending her off to public school where she changes her name to Sandy (Taryn Cagnina) and immediately takes up with Danny (MacMillan Leslie), the BMOC and maybe the only straight guy at O.H.S.
Sandy has a tough time fitting in with the Sirens (Vanessa Calantropo, Malari Martin, Meghan Edge), but what these actors all share is the ability to belt out popular tunes. In fact, the level of vocalizing is off the charts, with newcomers Cagnina and Leslie capturing the angst in "Crying," even as synchronized film clips (Garrett Herzig, video design) projected behind them elicit gales of laughter. Lawton (who also wears the hat of music director) and Marie each gets a turn with the handheld microphone for a rousing song backed by the Glitterpuss Dancers (choreographer Nesser, Holly Bourdon, Matt Kyle). Kiki Samko, cheekily channeling Marilyn Monroe, plays the Frenchy character who aspires to be a beautician and breathily intones "Somewhere That's Greece (Green)" from Little Shop of Horrors.
It can be challenging to tell the players without a scorecard (in this case, program), but that doesn't take anything away from the full-on fun. It's great to see about a 50-50 blend of GDO regulars and fresh faces. Scott Martino always has his hands full crafting his exquisite costume designs, but he makes a welcome cameo appearance as lusty Pandora and splits the set designing task with Brian Riordan (also scenic artist). Michael Clark Wonson is onboard as lighting designer to make sure all of the costumes, sets, and Nesser's wonderful dance routines pop. York portrays the ill-fated Medusa, and Sarah Jones doubles as Zeus' wife and the Titans' butch Coach Cunnalingus. Among the newbies, Underhill shows some previously unseen talents, Calantropo wows with her sassy belt, and Jack Ferdman takes his rightful place in Landry's lineup of hunks.
Directors are sometimes accused of having a God complex, and Coen gets to act on his in Greece. He is a blustery, vengeful Zeus, but he gets it out of his system in the character because his direction appears to be collaborative and generous, getting Great Performances from the entire ensemble. Venus is an opportunity for Landry to play God as well, but she actually has less power than he does as producer, book writer, and lyricist. Most importantly, he uses his power for good, rocking the Ramrod Center with song, dance, and laughs. Despite (or because of?) the irreverence, it's heavenly.
Photo credit: Michael von Redlich (Kiki Samko, Michael Underhill)