Michael Drury in Victor/Victoria. Photo: Pandora Productions
Music by Henry Mancini & Frank Wildhorn
Lyrics by Leslie Bricusse & Frank Wildhorn
Book by Blake Edwards
Directed by James Bohr
Review by Annette Skaggs
Entire contents copyright © 2018 by Annette Skaggs. All rights reserved
It is a now classic story: an Englishwoman, Victoria (Julie Evins) wanders into a Parisian Cabaret, Chez Lui, to get warm and is met by a congenial gay man, Toddy (Michael J. Drury), who talks her up over a scotch-laced hot cocoa about how hard life is and can be. She is looking for work as a singer and Toddy convinces the owner to allow her to audition. She doesn’t get a part and subsequently Toddy is fired too.
Toddy invites Victoria back to his flat and together they hatch a brilliant plan to earn some money. Victoria could be a woman pretending to be a man pretending to be a woman. After becoming the toast of Paris, Victor meets King Marchan (Brent Gettlefinger), a powerful “businessman” from Chicago. The two find themselves instantly attracted to one another, which causes King to question him and Victoria to decide between love and her new career. Like I said, a classic story we’ve all heard before.
This raunchy romp is the latest installment of Pandora Productions’ emphasis on the theme of Family. I personally feel that Victor/Victoria fits rather well within that frame as the characters create their own family. And what a fun family it is, kind of like their real-life counterparts.
Jason Cooper provided the opening curtain talk since Mr. Drury was rather busy elsewhere. It was within his speech that he mentioned that Victor/Victoria might be one of Pandora’s largest, most ambitious productions to date. I agree as it requires comedic acting, singing and dancing from its large cast. But I think Pandora went above and beyond with Victor, incorporating fantastic costumes (Donna Lawrence-Downs), enthralling choreography (Frank Goodloe), and expertly designed sets (Eric Allgeier). It was gratifying to watch how so many people who were either dancing or pratfalling in old Vaudeville style (Heidi Platt, Brad Lambert) or simply acting in their own space were cognizant of the small scope of the stage and be able to manipulate heavy scenery and/or props easily.
When one hears the name Henry Mancini the image of The Pink Panther is sure to pop up, but his score for Victor/Victoria, with the lyrical stylings of Leslie Bricusse and Frank Windhorn, is far removed from that theme. With show-stopping tunes such as “Le Jazz Hot”, “Almost a Love Song”, and the fantastically risqué “Paris Makes Me Horny”, the landscape of music throughout is filled with double entendres and lewd, delicious melodies.
Pandora hit the jackpot with their troupe of performers. The complement of dancers, that included Leila Toba and Phillip Rivera, gave Victor/Victoria the feel of cabaret. Supporting characters such as Vanessa Card’s Jazz Singer and Jenna Ryan’s Flower Lady was pleasant. Jason Cooper’s Sal was convincing as a mob boss. Brad Lambert’s Labisse was hilarious as he delivered some of the best comedic moments of the show.
Michael David Smith as King’s bodyguard Squash was a big surprise. With great comedic timing and an impressive voice, I hope to see more of him on stage. Brent Gettlefinger’s turn as King was enjoyable, as he was able to deliver a strong vocal and broad musical reach.
It had been a while since Louisville audiences had a chance to see Pandora Productions’ Artistic Director Michael J. Drury on stage, so I was delighted to know that he would be appearing in this production. His turn as Toddy was in some ways an extension of his real-life persona: personable, quick-witted and full of joie de’vivre.
Julie Evins as Victor/Victoria was close to perfect and her vocal range was impressive. She was expressive and responsive to all of her scenes and fellow actors. As great as all of the actors were, Amanda Kyle Lahti stole the show. As King’s jilted girlfriend Norma, Ms. Lahti exhibited a wide range of talents, including an excellent pole dancing routine. Even though her accent could probably grate cheese, it was perfect for the part.
I did wonder who trained the actors in their Parisian accents, as most often times it sounded more German. It did become distracting after a while.
Under the baton of Phillip Morgan, the musical quintet did very well in embracing the award-winning score, keeping it light and flirty.
As was mentioned earlier, this production was an ambitious undertaking and through many generous donations of props, costumes and other necessities from places like Youth Performing Arts School and CenterStage, it did not go unnoticed.
In closing, I want to thank Eric Allgeier for the many years that he has gifted the Louisville stage community with his love of theater and expertise in building remarkable sets that could even have Broadway come calling. I wish you well in your future endeavors.
From the wonderful, smoky lighting from Jesse Alford to Ms. Evins’ high B flat, Pandora Productions’ Victor/Victoria is a pure delight and worth every delicious note.
Featuring: Rebecca Brewer, Kristy Calman, Vanessa Card, Jason Cooper, Michael J. Drury, Julie Evins, Brent Gettelfinger, Heather Green, Rusty Henle, Amanda Kyle Lahti, Brad Lambert, Sean Patrick, Maggie Patton, Dalen Payton, Heidi Platt, Phillip Rivera, Gerry Robertson, Jenna Ryan, Harrison Coffman, Andy Szuran, Elliott Talkington, Leila Toba, & Michael David Smith
March 15 – 25, 2018
At The Henry Clay Theatre
604 South Third Street
Louisville, KY 40202
For tickets: Pandoraproductions.org
Annette Skaggs is heavily involved as an Arts Advocate here in Louisville. She is a freelance professional opera singer who has performed throughout Europe and in St. Louis, Cincinnati, Boulder, Little Rock, Peoria, Chicago, New York and of course Louisville. Aside from her singing career, she has been a production assistant for Kentucky Opera, New York City Opera, and Northwestern University. Her knowledge and expertise have developed over the course of 25+ years’ experience in the classical arts.