Cole Porter's 1930 'Du Barry was a Lady' closed out the 21st season for 42nd Street Moon Theater as Ashley Rae Little and Jack Mosbacher starred in the naughty and campy vaudeville burlesque, not to be upstaged by Bruce Vilanch as Louie, a washroom attendant in love who wins the lottery and dreams he is King Louis XV in 18th century Paris. The assorted characters of the nightclub world get transported into his cheesy imagination. They take on French names including Gruyere, Roquefort, Fondue.
Check out the video of the film version with Lucille Ball, Red Skelton and Gene Kelly (1943).
If you have ever wondered where the song ‘Friendship’ came from, look no further. This production also delivers on ‘Well, Did You Evah’.
The dialogue seems campy, not as scampy as it must have been in Cole Porter’s 1930. Some lines just seem juvenile or fall flat on the ears of a middle aged San Francisco audience full of sedate gay men, such as ‘She keeps it clean, if you know what I mean’. That one was sung about one of the chorus girls in a burlesque number. Another line about Du Barry meeting her lover at Koch D’Or and pronounced cock door, ditto. 42nd Street Moon just isn’t Finocchio’s, it’s more family oriented in 2014. The sparkling cast must be half the age of most of the audience and innuendo just doesn’t pack enough of a wallop. However.
Does it hurt?
Not to worry. The innuendo about twisted sexuality or deviance does work. There’s a great sequence toward the end where Vilanch has a big arrow stuck in his rump, courtesy of the twisted little court brat whose antics could substitute for a jester’s. He wants his arrow back regardless of where it’s been. Rudy Guerrero’s palace character ambles over and asks in a casual, leisurely tone and just to make sure, ‘Does it hurt?’.
The production contained lots of mugging and hamming, the Bronxian accents on the royality something that would make Danny Scheie of Cal Shakes proud, although Scheie sounds much more loud and obnoxious. As always, the singing remains gorgeous and the cast could be reciting their ABCs or accounting and would still be a joy. Du Barry’s ensembles in particular rang divine and those alone were worth the price of admission.
The costumes looked sumptuous particularly for the French royalty scenes. The cast may have been goofing with cute choreography and gay finger snaps but the costume designer played it straight.
On that note. Ryan Drummond in his guard’s uniform similarly conveyed a wonderfully sour attitude toward the gay revelers at the royal party. He gave great looks of contempt and loss of patience with their shenanigans, particularly when he takes his spear and pops the balloon of the twisted royal brat. His counterpart in the nightclub world would be the tax man who comes a callin on the lottery winner.
Abby Simmons as Vi with her Cupie Doll voice scowled ever so sourly.
Jordan Sidfield played Charley/the dauphin, the royal psychotic twerp in the Louis XV French dream. His nightclub counterpart, the new washroom attendant replacing lottery winner Bruce Vilanch’s character, came from reform school. Danny Scheie again, would be so proud if not inspired. Sidfield could very well be Son of Scheie. Good job on your 42nd Street Moon debut, Mr. Sidfield.
A lot more could have been made out of Anthony Rollins-Mullens. One kept waiting for a Cleavon Little moment ala ‘Blazing Saddles’ but it never happened. However, Ashley Rae Little would make a good Madeline Kahn with the right direction. Ashley Rae Little must sing ‘I’m So Tired’ with perhaps Bruce Vilanch as Gene Wilder.
Ah but Mosbacher. The young love interest Alex/Alexandre turned out to be the most captivating with his All-American clean cut looks, his dashing and debonair air. The ginger reminded me of the tall and boyish English actor who played a has-been World War II pilot living at the pub and on his laurels in the indie film ‘The Deep Blue Sea (2011)’. That’s Tom Hiddleston who played opposite Rachel Weisz. Also, a young Robert Redford in ‘The Great Gatsby’. Neither of these men sing however and Mosbacher possesses a glorious operatic voice that just rings on his high notes. Show stopping, a class act. Du Barry said it, ‘He’s not only pretty, he says things!’.
Tickets ran from $25 to $75. Eureka Street Theater, 215 Jackson Street, San Francisco, California. Off Jackson Square, easily walkable or bikable from Embarcadero BART.
Next season, number 22, includes the highly anticipated Nick & Nora production based on Dashiell Hammett's 'Thin Man' series. Subscriptions cost $95 to $233.
For more information: www.42ndStreetMoon.org or call (415) 255-8207