note: entire contents copyright 1999 by Alexander Wright
A Review by Alexander Wright
"Charlie's Angels in the Flaming Cave of the Tobacco Heiress!"
Director: James P. Byrne
Sound Chick and Technical Orphan: Angel Minefield
House Management and Backstage Orphans: The "Zipper Twins" Jennifer and Brandy
Fabulous Costumes: "House of Luneau Rhodes"
Virginia Slim...................Miss Kris Knievel
Maxine.....................Billy "Fran" Francesca
Deputy Luke............DamonVon Something
Tori Spelling.........................Sabina Sydney
Lady Elaine Fairchild........................Herself
The title of the current Gold Dust Orphans production "Charlie's Angels in the Flaming Cave of the Tobacco Heiress" is perhaps misleading and slightly inaccurate. A more suitable tag for this ill-conceived production would be "Three Drag Queens Naked From the Waist Down". This production has only a sampling of plot that relates to the 70's chick action series and is mostly a cheap smorgasbord of material that reminds one of the ad-hoc drawn-out late-night drag "entertainment" breaks that often occur in the wee hours at local area nightclubs. Even the nonsensical musical numbers, which might fare better within a cabaret drag act, seem oddly out of place.
The plot of this production, which has moved from the Dollhouse Theatre to the theater district nightclub/bar Chaps, has our three heroines, hired by heiress Virginia Slim, searching for her drug-addicted and autistic sister, Tori Spelling. Ms. Spelling is being held in the Blackbush Canyon Prison for Women. The Angels are primed and ready to make the rescue.
In the program notes Mr. Landry, founder of the troupe, admits that he would stay up late watching reruns of the once popular show and then would force himself to dream about the evening's episode. I'm not sure what Mr. Landry was dreaming about, but it obviously had nothing to do with Charlie's Angels. And that is the highly unfortunate result of this 70 minute intermissionless bomb. The only material that comes close to hitting the mark is the approximate 10 to 20 percent that does relate to the ripe-for-parody disco era series.
The most comic and interesting portion of the script contains elements of the recognizable episode "Angels in Chains", in which the girls are on assignment at an all-female prison. In this installment, the Angels get arrested for hitchhiking and speeding and are sent to the prison. The Orphans appropriately make the most of playing with this moment. Next, the Angels encounter Maxine, a mean-spirited female prison guard, and are forced to strip, shower, and get "sprayed". This is also played to the hilt by the Orphans, but they do not take it as far as they could. For example, in the actual episode, after being the last one sprayed, Kelly in a bitchy tone challenges the more-than-bitchy prison guard, "When was the last time you were sprayed." There are endless possibilities here and the Orphans do not deliver. In fact, they completely ignore them.
There are some inside jokes which work quite well. In an episode from the first season of the series, Jill (Farrah Fawcett) escapes from a criminal on a skateboard. At one point in the Orphans' production Afrodite (as Jill) actually skateboards from one side of the stage to the other. A soiled rag doll prop is a clever tie-in to yet another campy episode. Also, there are a few amusing moments when the Angels reflect on their future. Whether it be a new replacement to the series (after all, there were a total of six angels) or Kmart endorsements, these elements are downright recognizable and genuinely funny. After all, this farcical play should poke fun at its inspiration--Charlie's Angels.
Probably the best way to describe the worthless bulk of the Orphans' production is with the reenactment of the prison shower scene. While taking a shower, each of the three Angels keeps peeking out of a shower curtain hung around their heads, either setting themselves or each other up for a joke. What this really boils down to is a poorly executed stand up comedy routine. And from the percentage of the punchlines that fell down face first, that's exactly what it seemed like. At one point, someone in the audience accurately shouted "You call that a joke?" By that time, I was ready to take a time out and head to the bar for a drink. I desperately started to look forward to the period television commercials that richly filled the scene and costume changes.
Even the production values are substandard for a group of limited means. The costumes do little to suggest Charlie's Angels. I couldn't understand this. Not one red bathing suit made famous by Farrah Fawcett. Not even one outfit that slightly resembles the wardrobe designed for the Charlie's Angels dolls. The costumes look more like something stolen from the bargain basement rack of "Priscilla: Queen of the Desert."
Also, the set, what little there is of it, looks like it was hastily slapped together the week of production. It is used effectively only once--when the three Angels appear at the beginning of the show. And I was most perplexed as to why the Orphans couldn't properly set up the television and VCR used to play the television commercials without having the display words "stop", "play", and "pause" appear in bold white characters across the screen.
I do have to mention that three performers rise above the material and are genuinely entertaining in their own right. Mr. Francesca, as Maxine, is deliciously amusing and wildly hilarious. Afrodite and Ms. Champayne (who bears a striking resemblance to Tanya Roberts) as Angels Jill and Kelly, respectively, are a pleasure to watch and they exude an ample supply of wit and camp via their comic timing and body language. Other than these three, the remainder of the cast is easily forgettable.
All in all, this show is a pitiful disappointment. In the program notes, Mr. Landry states that the Orphans decided their follow-up to "Rosemary's Baby" would be "just one big, silly, fun MESS!" I can only say they succeeded with two of those words--big and MESS. With so much potentially hilarious material from which to draw, I am astounded at how little of Charlie's Angels actually made it into this production. Let's hope the Orphans pull their act together and get back on track for their next offering, "Medea".
For tickets to 'Charlie's Angels...,' call the Dollhouse at 266-8511. Performances are at Chaps nightclub/bar, 100 Warrenton Street, Thursday, Friday, Saturday through April 25th, 8 PM.