By Dale King
At times during the run of the gender-befuddling musical, Victor/Victoria, the audience at the Broward Stage Door Theatre in Margate may feel they are getting a special bargain. Viewers are actually getting two stars – a male lead and a female lead character – in one person.
In a nutshell, Victor/Victoria is the tale of a woman disguised as a man who dresses and performs on stage as a woman. A lighter, less intense cousin to the more outrageous La Cage Aux Folles, the inferences in both are distinctly similar. We must accept individual differences and the right of anyone to love whomever they choose.
“This show is one I’ve always wanted to do,” says Victor/Victoria director Kevin Black. “It’s funny, it’s jazzy and it’s got music by the great Henry Mancini. It’s set in Paris. What more could you ask?”
If you do ask for more, you’ll likely get it. Black has pulled in talented actors, singers and dancers from a half-dozen area theaters or more who offer laughable, quirky characters who also offer some important lessons in life.
The plot is set against the sophisticated night life of 1930s Paris, giving the production a style and sheen that keeps the stage glowing and the music flowing (with songs like the genial “Paris by Night.”) Music director David Nagy holds the pre-recorded soundtrack in check, though some audio glitches do escape.
Black has cast Dalia Aleman – whose excellent soprano voice filled the auditorium in Stage Door’s Carbonell-recommended Nice Work If You Can Get It – as Victoria Grant, a penniless singer, totally down on her luck when she meets Carroll “Toddy” Todd (Larry Buzzeo), a stage-savvy gay showman who takes her under his wing and offers her shelter on a wet, wintry night.
Toddy, also unemployed, comes up with what he considers an inspired idea. With him as her manager, Victoria will pretend to be a man, and get a job singing as a Polish female impersonator. All goes well until King Marchan (James A. Skiba) a Chicago “businessman” arrives, and finds himself attracted to “Count Victor Grazinski.”
Victor’s stage debut, set to the sizzling melody, “Le Jazz Hot,” is a brassy, slinky tribute to New Orleans musical style, with the ensemble and dancers filling the stage with exacting vocals and movements.
As King’s love grows, so does his uneasiness over Victor’s true gender. His muddled thoughts upset him, as well as his ditzy blond companion, Norma (Ashley Rubin), fresh from rendering the tune, “Paris Makes Me Horny.” Norma has an explosive temper – and a full head of bleach-blond hair to match – and often slides into tantrums as King puts her off.
She returns later and joins the ensemble for a fairly blasé performance of “Chicago, Illinois.”
Act II songs don’t seem to live up to the tunes that open the show. Aleman’s soprano overpowers such ditties as “Crazy World,” “You and Me” (with Buzzeo) and “Almost a Love Song,” with Skiba.
Saving the act – and the show – is the closing anthem and theme song, “Victor/Victoria.” The finale is musically and visually dynamic, displaying dancers sporting white tuxedos and gold lapels.
The cast is a true collection of stage familiars. Troy Stanley – recalled as Belle’s father in Wick’s Beauty and the Beast – portrays tough guy Squash Bernstein and Kevin Reilly is excellent as Sal Andretti, a thug cut from Tony Soprano cloth.
Michael Schneider appears as Henri Labisse. And it’s great to see Mike Cartwright again. He doesn’t sing in this show, though he does have a great voice. His appearance as Emile in South Pacific at Lake Worth Playhouse is particularly memorable.
Other cast members include Jerel Brown, Carly Dorman, Jonathan Eisele, Luis Gomez, Barry Kramer, Natalie McPherson, Cat Pagano, Elissa Solomon, Phyllis Spear and Alexandra Van Hasselt.
Danny Durr has definitely put his mark on the choreography. Costume design by Jerry Sturdefant is elegant and chic, and the set design by Stage Door Scenic is decidedly urban.
Victor/Victoria will run through June 10 at Broward Stage Door Theatre, 8036 West Sample Road, Margate. Tickets are $48. Group rates are available, as are student prices. Tickets may be purchased by calling 954-344-7765 or www.stagedoorfl.org.