BWW Review: DEBBIE DOES DALLAS is Sublimely Silly Satire
During the seventies, the adult film industry went through a very strange period of trying to make adult films with actual plots and dialogue. The attempts, to put it mildly, were laughable. The "acting" was, at best, wooden and the dialogue ranged the gamut from stilted to repetitive. During this period, which has been dubbed "The Golden Age of Porn" or "Porno Chic", came some big box office successes. Among the biggest hits of this era was the film "Debbie Does Dallas", released in 1978, close to the end of the period. By the early eighties, home video effectively ended the era where people went to movie theaters to see porn.
Close to a quarter century after the original film had been in adult movie houses, Susan L. Schwartz had the idea of turning it into a musical comedy. DEBBIE DOES DALLAS: THE MUSICAL like the movie, centers on high school cheerleader Debbie's quest to become a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader. Unlike the movie, the musical does not contain any actual sex or nudity. Produced Off-Broadway, this musical with a book by Susan L. Schwartz and music by Andrew Sherman, with Tom Kitt and Jonathan Callicutt, was conceived by Schwartz, who also starred as Debbie. The story, dialogue and characters are remarkably faithful to the 1978 film, with the musical numbers replacing the sex scenes. In fact, the dialogue is lifted practically verbatim from the original film.
The end result is a sublimely silly musical satire currently getting an Austin staging by Doctuh Mistuh Productions at the Salvage Vanguard Theatre. Billed as a modern morality tale disguised as a coming-of-age story, in reality, this little musical is a satirical reenactment of the horrifically clunky dialogue of the porn flicks of the seventies. It features the same bad acting of those film; but done on purpose, with the cast's tongues stuck firmly in their cheek to deliver broad comedy.
Director Michael McKelvey knows exactly what this show is and how to stage is. The pacing is fast and the energy is high. This results in some wonderful laugh out loud moments. This cast walks it right up to the edge again and again and handles this like the theatrical soufflé it is. And they ALL know how to work a bit. I could go into detail, but I hate spoilers as much as the next person. And this show has a couple of inspired doozies.
Mostly the music isn't particularly memorable; however, there's one really great song to this score called "God Must Love a Fool", which is delivered expertly by Lexi De Anda, as Lisa. De Anda possesses a soaring voice and hits the show's best number out of the park.
This nine person cast does a great job with the material. As Debbie, the cheerleader trying to raise money to make it to audition for the Dallas Cowboys, Monique Huff is funny and deftly handles the characters faux innocence. She also has a great singing voice. There's also solid comedy work from Madison Weinhoffer as the dim-witted Tammy, Lexi De Anda as the boyfriend-stealing Lisa, and Caroline Ragland as Roberta, as well as Kathryn Lane as Donna. The guys, all playing multiple roles are good, especially Joey Banks as Rick, the boyfriend who never gets Donna's name right and Ryan Wilson as jock Kevin.
To be honest, there isn't any real moral here, nor is this great art. There's no deep social commentary buried in the script and you're not going to come away humming the score. This is pure fun. This is deep belly laughs. The best way to enjoy DEBBIE DOES DALLAS: THE MUSICAL, is to just switch off your thinking cap and enjoy this theatrical equivalent of cheese doodles and twinkies. Just let the sublime silliness wash over you and enjoy yourself. I'm pretty sure that's exactly what Doctuh Mistuh Productions is going for. And you? You should be going for it too.
DEBBIE DOES DALLAS: THE MUSICAL, Conceived by Susan Schwartz, Music & Lyrics by Scott Sherman with Jonathan Callicutt and Tom Kitt. Based on the film "Debbie Does Dallas", From School Day Films. Original Screenplay by Maria Minestra.
Running time: Approximately 80 minutes including intermission. There is no nudity in the show, but there is adult subject matter.
DEBBIE DOES DALLAS: THE MUSICAL, produced by Doctuh Mistuh Productions, plays The Salvage Vanguard Theater (2803 E. Manor Road) now thru Jan. 3rd. Showtimes at 7:30pm Wed-Sat and 5pm on Sunday. Please see website for show schedule. There will be no performances on Dec. 24, 25 and Jan. 1. Tickets start at $25; Student tickets are $15. Tickets: Brown Paper Tickets www.brownpapertickets.com or call (800) 838-3006.