Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Rosemary's Baby -- The Musical"

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note: entire contents copyright 2002 by Carl A. Rossi


Book and Lyrics by Ryan Landry
Music by Ryan Landry and Bill Hough
Directed by James P. Byrne

Bernaise La Flame … Tiger Lily
Gargoyle … Hathaway Haus
Egg … Ryan Landry
Rosemary Woodhouse … Charlie Fineran
Guy Woodhouse … Bill Hough
Minnie Castavette … Walter McLean
Roman Castavette … James P. Byrne

Piano … Gorgeous George/Bill Hough
Drums … Nancy Asch
Guitar … Blanche Blanchard
Bass … J. Johnson

As I headed for the Ramrod once again to see Ryan Landry's latest send-up – a musical version of ROSEMARY'S BABY, that now-classic tale of witchcraft in modern-day New York – I wondered what would I be seeing: perhaps a show-stopping number entitled "I've Been to Vidal Sassoon's" with Rosemary getting her hair cut by giant two-legged scissors? Or the line "It has a chalky undertaste" taking on a whole new meaning as Rosemary samples something she's never tasted before? Wishful thinking on my part, for Mr. Landry and his Gold Dust Orphans have gutted Ira Levin's novel/Roman Polanski's film, throwing out characters, plot, baby and bath water and then filling the basin to the brim with their own brand of trash – and a lot of garbage.

Rosemary is still there, of course, but has become a bit of a tramp; Guy's there, too, but is now a coke-sniffing porn star. The witches next door, Minnie and Roman Castavette, are retained to talk Guy into allowing Satan to conceive a child with Rosemary in exchange for their pumping him with steroids (and his getting boned by Roman). Rounding out the cast are three new characters: "Egg", an unfertilized egg who desperately wants to crawl inside Rosemary's womb in order to be born; "Bernaise La Flame", part witch/all slut, who runs Hell's Kitchen where much of the action takes place; and "Gargoyle", a rubber-masked handyman who silently performs tasks similar to the Mute in THE FANTASTICKS.

Having enjoyed much of Mr. Landry's MADAME EX (see my comments in 2001), I found ROSEMARY'S BABY – THE MUSICAL! to be too raunchy for my taste – especially when a (fake) shit-filled diaper is tossed into the audience or when the splay-legged Rosemary is revealed to have a strapped-on rubber vagina during his/her seduction scene or when our post-birth heroine enters wearing a nightgown with the bottom half soaked in blood, etc., etc. (women's bodies take an especially cruel beating in this show – no pun intended). Which is too bad, for Mr. Ryan – who plays Egg as Big Bird still in his shell – is blessed with talented actors, who could have been so much better (and less offensive) had they not been directed by James P. Byrne into giving a hard, in-your-face performance as if the audience were Time Square rowdies or P'town drunks. For the record, on the night I attended, the audience – mostly all-male – were well-behaved and they cheered, applauded and hooted at the appropriate times.

After seeing Mia Farrow's delicate film performance, Charles Fineran's alley-cat Rosemary takes some getting used to (why must she be a tramp and fellow coke addict?), but he tap dances well enough and has moments of saucer-eyed poignancy and, on the night I attended, he unexpectedly gave us the loveliest moment in the show: Mr. Fineran approached a phone booth, but before he got inside, the Sound Crew jumped the gun and rang the phone for the call he was to make. Laughter from the audience. Mr. Fineran stepped back, looked out at the audience, then up to Heaven, then over his shoulder. With great dignity, he then stepped inside the booth and dialed the number. Leaning out, he gestured with the receiver to the Sound Crew. The phone rang. Mr. Fineran graciously smiled his thanks and continued the scene. Carol Burnett couldn't have done it any better.

Bill Hough as Guy and Tiger Lily as Bernaise have strong singing voices; strong enough to not need the over-amplification that distorts much of the lyrics, rendering them incomprehensible. (Speaking of in-your-face: if you don't wish to have your nose pressed between Ms. Lily's cleavage when she sings her opening number, don't sit in the first row.) Mr. Byrne as Roman and Walter McLean as Minnie (made up to resemble the late Ruth Gordon) have rich, theatrical voices, effortlessly sculpting their lines in multiple octaves with plenty of lung power to spare. And Mr. McLean makes an OMG Fourth of July entrance that would cause a sensation should he decide to crash this year's Pops concert on the Esplanade.

And as for Rosemary's baby himself? Well, he has his father's eyes, all right…..

In a way, this disappointing show (for me, anyway) is its own Walpurgisnacht and Exorcism; first, this talented cast spins out two acts of gross-out humor; and then, purged of their demons, sweetly – almost shyly – come forward to take their bows. Better luck next time, you little devils.

"Rosemary's Baby – The Musical!" (10 January – 16 February)
Machine, 1254 Boylston Street, BOSTON, MA
1 (617) 262-6444

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