BWW Review: TIMES SQUARE ANGEL at Richmond Triangle Players Is a Hardboiled Holiday Charmer
For your outrageous holiday viewing pleasure, head to Richmond Triangle Players for "Times Square Angel," Charles Busch's hardboiled, campy treat. This roasted chestnut premiered in 1984 as a mashup of favorite tales like "A Christmas Carol" and "It's a Wonderful Life," set in the world of 1948 New York burlesque.
Our heroine is the hilariously named Irish O'Flanagan, a statuesque redhead who grew up poor but achieved stardom as a stripper. There's an adoring boy next door who's loved her since childhood, a rat who ropes her in as accomplice to a crime, and a Boston Brahmin suitor who holds out the promise of rescue and riches.
The production has a big cast, with lots of talented actors playing multiple roles, all going for maximum fun under the direction of Melissa Rayford. Though some of the scenes go on too long, you can't help but crack up when Desirée Dabney deploys her quivering lip or Mara Bennett unleashes her perfect Noo Yawk accent (kudos to dialect coach Amanda Durst).
The action is set in motion when Albert, an angel who's about to be kicked downstairs, is given one last chance: Go to Earth, straighten out Irish, and Albert can stay in heaven. In life, Albert was a magician in the early 20th century, and Jeffrey Cole is adorable in his sparkly white cutaway (Alex Valentin's costumes are fun throughout).
Wette Midler (alter ego: Luke Newsome) is the drag performer who plays Irish, and she's great with both the character's moxie and her heart of gold, though she lacks the fire she should have. Described as a "red-headed Duesenberg," she towers over most of her castmates and commands the stage with flair.
Eddie Webster turns in fun performances as Chick LaFountain, the nasty kidnapper, and Dexter Paine III, the rich boyfriend. Carlen Kernish is lovable as doting Eddie. Jeff Clevenger is great as nightclub owner Milton Keisler, and Michael Hawke does a pair of star turns as Helen Sternhan, a barfly, and Mrs. Paine, Irish's check-wielding prospective mother-in-law. Natalie Fehlner and Baylee Holloran are charming in supporting roles, and Jonel Jones creates a sensation as dancer Georgie.
With a fine set by Mercedes Schaum and delightful choreography by Nicole Morris-Anastasi (it's kind of a lip-synch musical), Rayford keeps the show moving even when the script lags. Lucian Restivo's projections and sound design are excellent, including voiceover narration by the playwright. Austin Harber's lighting and Joel Furtick's makeup design for Irish sometimes combine to make Irish look like a Kabuki actor, but otherwise serve the story well.
And-spoiler alert-the cast presents a holiday surprise after the show, with a little audience participation. Don't miss it!
"Times Square Angel" at Richmond Triangle Players' Robert B. Moss Theatre, 1300 Altamont Ave.
Through December 21
Tickets: $30-$35 (students $10; discounts available for groups of ten or more)
Info: www.rtriangle.org or (804) 346-8113
Photo credit: John MacLellan