Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Kiss of The Spider Woman: The Musical"

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"What Happened in Boston, Willie"

Reviews of Current Productions

note: entire contents copyright 1999 by Larry Stark


"Kiss of The Spider Woman: The Musical"

Book by Terrence McNally
Based on the novel by Manuel Puig
Music by John Kander
Lyrics by Fred Ebb
Directed by Clayton Phillips
Choreographed by Sergio Trujillo

Scenic Design by Robert Oderisio
Costume Design by Lynn Bowling
Lighting Design by Kirk Bookman
Sound Design by John A. Stone
Music Director Greg Dlugos
Production Stage Manager Renee Brown

Molina.................................................Christopher Wells
Valentin............................................Michael Paternostro
Spider Woman/Aurora...................................Nancy Hess
Warden.................................................Mark Zimmerman
Molina's Mother............................................Melissa Hart
Marta..........................................................Barbara Helms
Gabriel/Prisoner...........................................Denton Tarver
Esteban..........................................................Dan Sharkey
Marcos.........................................................Chris Vasquez
Religious Fanatic/Prisoner..................................Sal Sabella
Amnesty International Observer/Prisoner....Vinson German
Prisoner Fuentes...........................................Mark Sanders
Prisoner Emilio.............................................Michael Rupp
Aurora's Men/Prisoners
John Bantay, Jim Orsorno, Alexander Quiroga, Scott Schmidt

Orchestra
Flute, Clarinet, Alto Saxophone.....Bill Carmichael
Clarinet.........................................Peter Cokkinias
Trumpet...................................................Jay Daly
Trombone.....................................Robert Couture
Keyboard............................................Kim Steiner
Keyboard.....................................Steven Bergman
Keyboard.................................Joseph Mulholland
Bass...................................................Barry Smith
Percussion...................................Mark Worgaftik


There are a great many limp clichés in "Kiss of The Spider Woman": a calculating and sadistic prison warden (Mark Zimmerman) who uses torture, trickery, and planted informants, but cannot break the haughty, handsome, heroic rebel ((Michael Paternostro) who will not give him "the information." Doesn't that sound like one of Dr. Gary Vizzoli's mushy old retreads of a '30s melodrama from the golden age of The Silver Screen? Well, those very clichés do indeed fit the musical, because our hero's cellmate --- and the warden's snitch --- is a gay window-dresser (and devout coward), flamboyantly Out and sane only because in his fantasy life he can remember every scene, every cut, every line and dance step and exaggerated gesture from the films of his screen-goddess idol (Nancy Hess): Aurora!

As the real hero of the piece Christopher Wells gets to camp it up in colorful silk scarves and to throw an occasional classic cliché of his own ("You needn't fear Me," he tells his angry partner, "I'm here for assaulting a teen-age boy. You're Not my Type!"), while he coddles the beaten and poisoned rebel, proving even poufs can be human, and in a hellish South American prison at that.

Terrence McNally, whose "Love! Valour! Compassion!" made me proud to be a human being and some of my friends proud to be gay, has turned in a book here that is more cliché than it has to be, and John Kander and Fred Ebb have added a score without whistle-able tunes. And although Director Clayton Phillips was Production Supervisor on Hal Prince's Broadway original and did the national tours and foreign companies, he brings little excitement to the big round NSMT stage. And very little of the dance provided by Choreographer Sergio Trujillo looks very difficult, except one intricately peppy dream-sequence tango that Wells and Hess have together. There is some macho posturing by beefcake chorus of prisoners --- or are they guards? It's so hard to keep the inmates straight without a score-card.

Well, maybe McNally had to learn enough on this show to be capable of the sublime "Ragtime" book. It's not such a bad show --- even though I'll bet you guessed that "The Kiss of The Spider Woman" is our gay hero's only hated film, in which his beloved Aurora kills men with a kiss of death. It's just, well, so-so.

In fact, when the audience assembled last Tuesday night for its second act, there were noticeably large gaps where patrons had headed for their cars instead of their seats. The show's not really that bad --- nowhere near as awful as "Victor/Victoria" or "Titanic" for instance ---but I could understand people who really like musical Comedies acting on their second-thoughts.

If people bailed out because of the cliché story, the blandly flat songs and dances, or the limp production of it all, they were probably right. However, I suspect far too many of those seats were empty because some of those patrons were incapable of believing that a high-camp, limp-wristed homosexual could ever be capable of an act of heroism, let alone a life of tattered but honest dignity. I think those people were wrong --- just as wrong, I think, as those who gave this show a determined Standing-O, probably for equally wrong political reasons.

I thought those battles were long over, didn't you?

Love,
===Anon.


"Kiss of The Spider Woman: The Musical" (till 26 September)
NORTH SHORE MUSIC THEATRE
62 Dunham Road, BEVERLY
1(978)232-7200

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