BWW Review: HUMOR AND HEART - THE LITTLE BLACK DRESS RETURNS to Straz Center For The Performing Arts
Like the shopkeeper who helps Mom introduce a reluctant teenage Dee and her best friend Mandy to a special article of clothing affectionately dubbed LBD, the original musical playing at the Straz Center's Jaeb Theatre through June 30, Little Black Dress is FABULOUS.
I saw the show when it debuted at Straz in 2018, but this was a new cast and the show includes improv, so my guests and I really had no idea what was in store.
Watching and hearing their and the rest of the audiences' reactions to what was happening on stage was nearly as fun as the actual performance.
I said it then and I repeat it now - this show is relatable to any age woman and even their dragged-along boyfriends and husbands. It's hysterical. It's heartwarming. It's heart-breaking. It's real life portrayed in bite-sized pieces, a phenomenal show for a non-targeted audience.
Breaking the fourth wall with audience interaction, leading to top-notch improv, this is by no means your standard musical.
Created by Danielle Trzcinski (Dee), Christopher Bond (director), and Amanda Barker, with lyrics by Danielle and Natalie Tenenbaum, Little Black Dress tackles the major stages of life -- friendship, dating, sex, love, birth, death - all important reasons for a little black dress - in an honest and playful way.
Even the story behind the story is empowering. Originally, Danielle pitched the musical to a bunch of men who couldn't get the concept. Frustrated by the lack of response, with the fundraising support of her dad, Danielle decided to wear many hats producing the musical, acting and taking the production on the road to, of course, rave reviews.
Little Black Dress's return to Tampa and to the Straz is definitely a celebration of tenacity and female empowerment.
Whereas I wouldn't necessarily bring a 16 year old to see a performance about hot flashes, mood swings and weight gain, I would absolutely share the magic of Little Black Dress. Though some of the language is mature, this is a celebration of the dress through every stage in our lives.
And what a celebration it is.
Last night, we were gifted with the best imaginary bachelorette party EVER with the talents of Danielle, Jennette Cronk (Mandy), and Rachel McLaughlan (Ann/Mom), best friends we wished we had. Jennette and Rachel seamlessly transition into a multitude of different characters and all of the characters light up the stage and have simply incredible voices.
We even had drool-worthy male dancer who was thoroughly enjoyed by the embarrassed school teacher pulled from the audience.
Clint Hromsco is so much more than a chiseled jawline and sexy pecs. As the only male on stage, transforming into five different characters (one of them female), Clint combines powerful vocals with superb dance moves and dramatic and comedic acting chops.
And this show is funnier because the audience contributes to it.
Jennette teases an audience member "just because you don't look at me doesn't mean I can't see you" and purposely selects her to describe her first kiss, with her mother sitting in the seat next to her.
Selected audience member Christina quips, "I have three kids. I've done more than kiss." She describes the kiss and the cast recreates a funnier version on stage, leaving the audience in hysterics.
Choreographed by Stacey Maroske and musically directed by Paul Moody, besides the seventeen fun songs and many dance numbers, the references to the Devil Rays, USF Bulls,Ybor City, Hyde Park and other hyper-local comments make the show feel like it written just for the Tampa audience.
In one moment we are laughing at the teenage geeky lisping Mandy in braces and ponytail pinky-swearing with Dee that one day they will go together to Paris in their little black dress. We are cringing with Dee at Mom providing TMI - oversharing her how I met your father story. The next moments, we are transported to a first job, first decent date, marriage, birth and dissolving of a friendship.
Danielle's facial expressions are as funny as Dee's lines.
We are holding back tears when Dee is collapsed on the floor desperate for her little black dress and for the person whose funeral she's attending.
Every relatable moment flows seamlessly into the next - interjected with improv with the audience.
During a particularly touching scene with Dee and Mandy reuniting, saying their I love yous, an audience member pipes in "I love you too." To their credit, they stay in character while the audience dissolves into gales of laughter.
The cast is a stellar foursome, comic timing impeccable and because they look like they are having the time of their lives, we do.
A show this positive and empowering - especially in this day and age - should be a welcomed addition to any theatre roster across the United States. I'm just glad it came back to Tampa and I could share this with my friends, who afterwards, like the rest of audience - men too - were raving about it.
My only disappointment - I couldn't find the soundtrack on Spotify on the drive home. Hopefully, this will be rectified.