Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Mae West: Duke & Dutch at Do Drop

There was sufficient enthusiasm over a new musical featuring MAE WEST and Duke Ellington to lure trendy Harlemites haloed by extravagant hats down to Greenwich Village a few night ago, where they galivanted past the stage door entrance, gad-zooking red nails and filtered smokes aloft, austerity pinched away and outweighed by the demands of glamour. We approve of adults who not only attend the theatre but also take pains with their evening attire. A swelling crowd of supporters, impressive bling, bejeweled cigarette lighters — — along with eye-catching garments onstage and in the audience — — alas, do not a stage hit make.
• • Here's one assessment by Talking Broadway's drama critic Matthew Murray:
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• • Though Mae West has a pivotal role in "Scandalous People," which is part of the NY Fringe, the reviewer from Backstage left holding his nose.
• • Utter Ineptitude Quoth the Critic • •
• • Sparing no sparks when it comes to flaming outlandish folly, critic Erik Haagensen wrote this: The only thing scandalous about the musical "Scandalous People" is that the utter ineptitude of its writing didn't prevent someone from wildly overproducing it in the Fringe Festival.
• • Erik Haagensen elaborated: Myra Churchill's book attempts to tell the story of Dewey, proprietor, and star of Harlem's Do Drop Inn nightclub in the 1920s, who longs to present an interracial musical revue at a time when racial mixing on nightclub stages was forbidden by law. Mae West, Duke Ellington, and the gangster Dutch Schultz all figure into it, but the plotting is ludicrously obvious, the characterizations one-dimensional, the scene construction ragged, and the dialogue trite, particularly when lapsing into rhymed couplets for no discernible reason. Churchill's lyrics are even worse, so badly misaccented and rhymed that at times they sound like gibberish. Composer Benny Russell is clearly acquainted with the sounds of the period, but he has no sense of how to structure a song nor much of a gift for melody.
• • Erik Haagensen added: The talented cast includes Eugene Fleming as Dewey, but only Nicole Hill as his wife and star manages to rise above the authors' incompetence, which ultimately trivializes the important issues they raise.
• • Between August 19th — 29th, this musical will be offered by MyChurch Productions as part of the New York International Fringe Festival at the Minetta Lane Theatre, 18 Minetta Lane, NYC 10011. Dress to impress. You might, at least, meet an attractive ticket-holder posing by the bar.
— — Source: — —
• • Review: "Scandalous People"
• • BY: Erik Haagensen | Theatre Critic
• • Published in: Backstage — —
• • Published on: Monday, 24 August 2009
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  1. Anonymous2:43 PM

    Hope you get a chance to see the show yourself. The history is treated respectfully and the music and lyrics ain't too shabby. Not really certain why Erik Haagensen has given this show such a disastrously scathing review unless he just doesn't like jazz or ambitious efforts. If this show has nothing, it has heart and talent and soul. As is in the story of "Scandalous People" Mae West would call these people her friends.

  2. Wow! Did you see the several favorable reviews of Scandalous People by other reputable theater critics? It's a shame you put this out there by itself, when apparently you didn't see the show. There was a packed house every night and the Mae West character stole the show! She was fabulous!

  3. • • Created for a cast of 21 actors/ dancers, and set in an era juicy with mayhem and dramatic potential, this show found enough Benjamins to float on. Drama critic Matthew Murray offered this detailed autopsy of the slaughter he witnessed onstage in Minetta Lane that left ticket-bearers with post-dramatic stress disorder.
    • • "Low-impact theatre of the most disappointing kind" • •
    • • Matthew Murray writes: When a musical has everything going for it except spark, you may find yourself wishing it were instead a colossal flop — — that way, you could at least delight in its destiny of nowhere. Unfortunately, no such reassurance is possible with Scandalous People: A Sizzling Jazzical. This show at the Minetta Lane Theatre, by Benny Russell (music) and Myla Churchill (libretto), must be one of the most professional, elaborately realized, and luxuriously appointed musicals ever seen at the New York International Fringe Festival. But its terrific cast and exquisite trappings cannot disguise the fact that it is low-impact theatre of the most disappointing kind.
    • • According to Matthew Murray: Churchill's story follows the progression of Prohibition-era Harlem performing artists to legit stages in the run up to the Great Depression. Dewey Demarkov (Eugene Fleming) is the Ziegfeld-lite impresario behind the Do Drop Inn, an uptown speakeasy whose floor acts are filled with attractive chorus girls (that Dewey has personally, uh, hand-picked); two sisters, Desiree (Nicole Hill) and Cindy (Nirine S. Brown), the former a smoky vocalist and Dewey's wife, the latter a lithe and gifted hoofer who has long loved Dewey from afar; and enough talent and variety to attract the come-hither regular Mae West (Jennifer Swiderski). ...
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