BWW Review: VICTOR/ VICTORIA at Barn Players
The Barn Players Community Theater, now located at the Arts Asylum, finishes up their 2019 main stage schedule with a good production of Blake Edwards' "Victor/Victoria" based on the 1982 smash hit film of the same name. In turn, "Victor/Victoria" is a descendant of an earlier German film coincidentally made just prior to the Nazis ascent to power in 1933.
Set in Paris, a pretty young soprano, Victoria Grant (Erica Baruth), is left penniless after the touring company with whom she has been traveling suddenly folds during the depths of the Paris winter. She stumbles into a left bank "Gay Nightclub" and auditions for the owner. She is excellent only to be told she is too straight for the club's clientele.
She clicks immediately with a gay club singer/insult comedian/rehearsal pianist named Carroll "Toddy" Todd (Dudley Hogue). Toddy manages to get himself fired for allowing his insults to go just a bit too far. It turns out he is almost as broke as Victoria except he has a semi-warm apartment that he platonically offers to share with her.
Victoria complains that she is disadvantaged as a performer because she is a woman. Toddy loans her pajamas (belonging to one of his long-lost male lovers) to warm up just as the former lover shows up. In a classic, comedy of manners sequence, the former lover mistakes Victoria for his successor. Rather than correct him, she stands up for Toddy and decks the former boyfriend. This amuses Toddy and hatches the germ of an idea. Instead of presenting Victoria as pretty young soprano of excellent ability, he will present her as Victor, a Polish nobleman and the world's greatest female impersonator. The ruse succeeds and Victor becomes a star with Toddy as her producer.
At the same time, a Chicago Prohibition era night club owner/gangster named King Marchan (Brian Larios) along with his girlfriend Norma (Brenna Castor) and bodyguard Squash (Christoph Cording) is in Paris on a talent scouting excursion. He sees Victor and is blown away. Not only does King think Victor is a great performer, he can't believe his own personal reaction to him. He has a hard time believing this creature is actually a man. He becomes Victoria's love interest.
The 1982 film is a straight (excuse the word) comedy film with musical sequences starring Blake Edwards' wife Julie Andrews. The 1997 musical version is a full musical play with lots of additional music by Henry Mancini and Frank Wildhorn. Mancini passed away during the pre-production process. "Victor/Victoria, the Musical" was Julie Andrews last singing role. Towards the end of the 734 performance Broadway run, Andrews was diagnosed with polyps on her vocal chords. The operation to correct the problem didn't go well and the Broadway star was robbed of her singing voice. She sued and later collected $20 million in damages from her surgeon.
Barn Players production of "Victor/Victoria" is well done. Director Kipp Simmons and Choreographer Valerie Martin have done a good job with a community theater cast. Simmons has boiled down a big show with lots of scenes and complications into something that works on a small stage. Costuming by Sarah Jeter is excellent. The various production numbers played downstage are well designed and performed.
Because there is a large company, the production numbers tend to overwhelm the action. This is, at base, a Shakespearean era comedy of manners and mistaken identity with Keystone comedy elements writ large.
The lead characters Dudley Hogue, Erica Baruth, Brian Larios, Brenna Castor, and Christoph Cording do more than credible jobs. Especially pleasant for me was the Act II duet between Larios and Baruth.
Victor/Victoria is a pleasant evening of community theater. These people love what they do. The Arts Asylum auditorium at 1000 E. 9th Street in Kansas City has been nicely refurbished and is comfortable for audiences. Free secure parking is located around the corner in a lot locked during performances. Please be aware that this area has lots of one way streets so allow enough time to navigate to the parking lot.
Tickets are available for performances through November 24. They may be purchased at www.thebarnplayers.org or by telephone at 913-432-9100.