note: entire contents copyright 2006 by Carl A. Rossi
Kareema M. Castro
Kathy St. George
Musical Direction; Electric Keyboards … Catherine Stornetta
Bass … Rich Appleman
Percussion … Doug Lippincott
I recently returned to the Stuart Street Playhouse to see Kathy St. George in a four-woman show --- no, not MENOPAUSE: THE MUSICAL which closed after a two-year run but, rather, RESPECT: A MUSICAL JOURNEY, conceived and written by Dorothy Marcic, a popular music authority. Four is the Playhouse’s lucky number regarding cast-size and Ms. St. George is one of its lucky charms; thanks to Ms. St. George and a winning trio of singers, RESPECT should settle in for a run of its own.
Ms. Marcic has selected songs of the twentieth century which both defined and controlled women, with Ms. St. George as her representative; Ms. Marcic dilutes her lesson by alternating sweeping long-shots of Woman through the ages with close-ups of her own revelations and her generalizations are sweeping, indeed --- I find it hard to believe that the cartoon character Betty Boop was the Ideal Woman of the 1930s, for starters, and Ms. Marcic takes the familiar stance that the generations of women preceding her own led wasted lives, as if getting married and raising one’s children were wash-outs; thus, the earlier songs are tweaked whereas the more recent ones are held up as paeans to true sisterhood (mind you, not every woman went around singing “I Am Woman” in 1972). RESPECT works better as nostalgia than as a social tract and, on the night I attended, the packed house showered its heartiest applause on “These Boots Are Made for Walkin’”, “I Will Survive” and the title song; a delightful rendition of “Lollipop” was over before it had even begun --- more sweeping, again. David Arisco and Barbara Flaten keep the body-flow as punchy and direct as a newsreel and Russ Borski has designed a charming collage-setting in the Sgt. Pepper manner.
Among the women, Tiana Checchia leans towards perky italicization which distances her from the material though she and a princess phone make hilarious mincemeat out of “Let It Please Be Him”; Amiee Collier, ripe and statuesque, effortlessly slides from sweet to gravelly --- a showgirl suddenly turning rocker --- and Kareema M. Castro provides the show’s bedrock with her full-throated tributes to Billie Holiday, Rosa Parks, Aretha Franklin and Gloria Gaynor. As entertaining as this trio may be, the evening belongs to Ms. St. George, who has been cannily cast for her Presence as well as her voice: those who admire this pixy charmer will be stunned at the mature, confident hostess now appearing at the Playhouse and I commend Mr. Arisco for allowing Ms. St. George to stretch her muscles and become all the more beautiful for doing so. Piaf, not Peter Pan, please.