BWW Reviews: It's A Hit! TUTS' VICTOR VICTORIA Is A Winning Gem
VICTOR VICTORIA has the panache and sizzle of Chicago, the colorful character line up of Guys and Dolls, and the farcical comedy of Noises Off. Throw in some story themes that mirror La Cage Aux Folles, and you have a musical that has it all. TUTS' production of VICTOR VICTORIA is saucy, hilarious, and tender. The production value is extremely high, with gorgeous sets, lush costumes, and outstanding lighting design. This show is a winner with all the trimmings of a classic musical.
The story takes us to sexy, mysterious, and decadent Paris in the 1934. Anastasia Barzee plays Victoria Grant, an English girl, a soprano, who is down on her luck and looking for work. Her life does a turnaround when she meets the flamboyant and big-hearted Toddy, played by Tony Sheldon. He hatches a plan to help her become a successful singer as a drag queen named Victor. This plot opens a huge door for comedy, high jinks, and farce, creating a story that is thoroughly engaging. But wait, there's more- Victoria falls in love with King Marchan (Joey Sorge), a macho, homophobic gangster who contends that Victor is not a drag queen, but a (gasp!) woman.
The musical is based on the film version, written and directed by Blake Edwards, who wrote it for his wife, Julie Andrews. With music by the legendary Henry Mancini, lyrics by Leslie Bricusse, and additonal lyrics by Frank Wildhorn, this theatrical gem is a musical delight.
Directed and choreographed by Richard Stafford, this production has a cast made in heaven. Tony-nominated Tony Sheldon deserves an award for his portrayal of Toddy. Sheldon's Toddy is warm, adorable, sensitive, and very, very funny. Sheldon has the audience in the palm of his hand, with is masterful comedic timing and an easy connection with the other actors. As Victoria (and Victor), Anastasia Barzee sings with studied sensitivity and depth. Barzee's vocal range is impressive, reaching up into top soprano notes, but then easily nestling into the tenor range in songs such as "Le Jazz Hot". She is at her best in scenes with Sheldon; the pair have a wonderful stage chemistry. Joey Sorge is perfectly cast as the brooding and sexy King; one of the highlights of the show is the hilarious "King's Dilemma", in which Sorge proves his comedic chops and exhibits a powerful voice. Angel Reda owns the role of King's ditzy girlfriend, Norma Cassidy. Reda is completely uninhibited in the role, creating many laugh-out-loud moments in the show. It would be easy to play this character as a complete stereotype, but somehow Reda shapes the role into an interesting and fresh incarnation. As a side note- if there was ever an actress who was born to play Adelaide in Guys And Dolls, it's Angel Reda.
Jimmy Kieffer provides balance in playing Squash/Mr. Bernstein. His unassuming portrayal works very well with many of the comedic moments in the show, particularly in a scene in Act ll, in which he walks in on a certain couple, closes the door, then opens it again to apologize for walking in on them. Michael Brian Dunn (Henri Labisse) does a great job playing the petty, driven, and accident-prone Labisse, a man who is desperate to expose Victor/Victoria. Ron Wisniski's powerful stage voice is perfect for the role of Andre Cassell. The ensemble is gifted with gorgeous voices and winning dance ability. Richard Stafford's choreography is a star in it's own right. The Fosse-inspired choreography is especially exciting.
TUTS production of VICTOR VICTORIA is simply outstanding with all the elements of a first-rate production. Get your tickets soon! Go to: http://www.tuts.com
Photo Credit: Bruce Bennet, courtesy of Theatre Under The Stars