Reviewed by Tony Annicone
The current musical at Ocean State Theatre Company is “Victor Victoria”, the 1995 musical which is based on the 1982 movie starring Robert Preston and Julie Andrews. The 1982 movie was a remake of movie from 1933 called “Viktor Viktoria”, a German film comedy. A penniless soprano, named Victoria Grant, colludes with a struggling gay impresario to disguise herself as a man named Victor, who entertains as a female impersonator known as “Victoria.” This down on her luck singer finds fame as a drag queen.
It results in her becoming the toast of 1930’s Paris. Victoria’s mentor and the architect of her transformation is Carroll Todd, Toddy. Complications arise when a Chicago gangster sees the act and finds himself attracted to the star. When Chicago night club owner, King Marchan finds himself so attracted to “Victor” that he can’t believe she is a he. Other colorful characters include Marchan’s girlfriend, Norma, a bubble brained beauty who spouts many malapropisms and vulgar language and Marchan’s bodyguard, Squash who falls for Toddy. The first act crams too much exposition into it while the second act is better constructed both scene wise and musically. Director Amiee Turner infuses this cast with the campiness needed for these roles while musical director Esther Zabinski taught them the many song numbers and choreographer Sebastian Goldberg creates some splendid dance numbers to keep you entranced all night long.
Bill Whitehead Jr. commands the stage in the role of Toddy. He is on stage for almost 40 minutes in the first act. Bill has some hilarious one liners and displays his strong voice “Paris By Night” and “Trust Me” when he transforms Victoria into Victor. One of his funniest scenes is with King’s bodyguard that has to be seen to be believed. Eden Casteel is phenomenal as the woman playing a man playing a woman. She gives the role the depth it needs and her voice is astounding. One of her best numbers is “Crazy World” while her “Living in the Shadows” tugs on your heartstrings. The “Le Jazz Hot” is strongly sung by Eden and Taavon Gamble as the Jazz Singer. Chris Swan is dynamic as King Marchan. He excels in both comic and dramatic roles. Chris is fantastic as this gangster who is afraid he is gay because he’s attracted to “Victor.” His solo is very comical and is called “King’s Dilemma” where he’s worried about what the Chicago gangsters will say if they found out he’s in love with a man. His duet with Eden called “Almost a Love Song” is very poignant and well done with both of them moving in unison up and down a staircase while delivering the song to the audience.
Kristin Wetherington is the biggest scene stealer as Norma. Her dumb blonde character is phenomenally performed and her song “Paris Makes Me Horny” is the funniest number in the show. Kristin’s character is reminiscent of Lina Lamont from “Singing in the Rain” and her second number is a dance called “Chicago, Illinois” where she convinces the gangsters to head back to Paris to take care of the misguided King. Squash is excellently played by Ben Salus. He gives this typical gangster role the clever twist it needs to leave the audience in stitches. Another comic performer is David Groccia as the club owner who keeps getting injured when Victoria sings a high B cracking a glass in his hand. He also falls off a window ledge twice, once struck by lightening and the second when Victoria flashes him. He is one funny bastard. Alison Russo plays the Street singer who sells flowers to Squash while she sings “Paris By Night” and dances up a storm with the other chorus members in the closing “Victor/Victoria” number where the couples unite at last. So for a marvelous performance of this popular movie turned into a musical, be sure to catch “Victor Victoria” for a fun filled evening of entertainment.
VICTOR/VICTORIA (26 April to 21 May)
Ocean State Theatre Company, 1245 Jefferson Boulevard, Warwick, RI
1(401)921-6800 or www.oceanstatetheatre.org