Sunday, March 24, 2013

Jesus Is Deep Inside Me, And He Ain't Pulling Out"

That was probably the most over-the-top lyric of any of the songs in Paradise, which we saw last night, at the Ruskin Theatre in the Santa Monica Airport.   But it's the sort of humor this play relied on. 

The fact that we can walk over in ten minutes, and its intimate 90 or so seats, makes this our go to theater when we're visiting my mom.

J felt all the female characters were awful.
  • A sparkly prostitute turned Jesus freak, named Chastity Jones. 
  • A full figured lusty disgusty dynamo with a muddy face who tells everyone that just like Jesus, she was born in a barn named Cinderella Tiara Applebaum (Cyndi).
  • A ratings obsessed reality show producer named Rebecca Washington.
I wasn't quite sure how to react to her comment.  I hadn't seen it that way.  Was I blind?  The other female character, Louanne Knight, preserving her dead mom's legacy by keeping the small dead coal mine town general store running and taking care of the the sundry inhabitants, was pretty close to normal and even noble. 

And the men were all very broad caricatures as well. 
  • Mayor and Tater Gayheart - the easy to sway mayor who wants to bring money and attention to his town, plus his black son who wants to be an IT billionaire, not the broadway musical star his dad wants him to be.  And no, the name isn't accidental. 
  • Old Man Johnson - the bluesgrass banjo and fiddle player is right out of Deliverance
  • Rev. John Cyrus Mountain - the fast talking preacher who's sold his reality show idea to Hollywood so he could build his mega church above the coal mine.
  • Peter Silverman, Rebecca's cameraman who just keeps the camera running. 
I think in farce broad character stereotypes are probably ok.  The audience knows each type is being made fun of.  Though J's comments are making me think about this.

All the cast were good.  Jonathan Root acting and singing as the Reverend (and a few other brief roles) stood out for me. And while they could all sing, Michael Rubenstone (the cameraman) had a really beautiful voice I wanted to hear more of.

Essentially this was The Music Man, with Harold Hill being the Rev. bringing in both a megachurch and reality tv to River City instead of a band.  And I don't foresee too many high schools putting on this musical.   Louanne is Marian the Librarian, who sees through the Rev who brings his own sweety with him (Chastity).  It's the cameraman who loses his heart to Louanne.

This is billed as a world premiere and it was, they said, the sixth or seventh sold out performance.  The music keeps your foot tapping and covers a lot of little flaws, but it's no Music Man.  In the end though, I have to admit, I was really getting upset as Louanne's resolve to keep reality tv out of Paradise is broken down - clearly the play had hooked me.

Set and Audience for Paradise just before the play began

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