RESPECT: A Musical Journey of Women
Winter Park Playhouse, Winter Park FL
by Carl F. Gauze
Written by Dorothy Marcic
Directed and Choreographed by Roy Alan
Musical Direction by Chris Leavy
Life creeps back slowly to Orlando theater, and I have the enviable task of reporting on who and what is opening to those of you still holed up in faded green rooms and barricaded behind ticket counters. There was a packed house of 40 musical risk takers tonight, and four brave and talented singers took to the stage to entertain us live and in person. Even the bar stood ready to serve, and a Chris Leavy or two hid behind a germ-resistant scrim for back up. Tonight’s exciting show looks at female portrayals in pop music, focusing on empowerment and high energy sing-along numbers. Singing with masks is hard, so I only tapped my toes which are rarely in time. I think everyone appreciated that.
Dorothy (Christina Brandt) acts as our Emcee tonight; she bosses around the other cast members and her picture in the lobby looms over the others. The show progresses linearly, beginning with that 1890’s hit “She’s Only A Bird in A Gilded cage” sung by Eden (Mahalia Gronigan). Then it’s on to the Jazz era where traditional laments like “Can’t Help Loving That Man” and “My Man “ contrast with the upbeat “I Want to Be Loved By You” by Faith (Kathern Kilger) and “Hard Hearted Hanna” sung by the cast show how war affected women’s roles in society. Emphasizing the split is Rosa’s (Nyeshia Smith) “Blues Medley.”
The the next big burst of feminine energy occurred during World War Two as women built much of the military material needed to win the war. “Bill Baily (Won’t you Please Come Home?)” showed Rosie the riveter’s loneliness, but after the war the men mostly came back, leaving us with role models like Jane Jetson and Wilma Flintstone to sing us sentimental ballads like “Tammy” (Faith, Eden and Rosa) and gold digging rousers like “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” (Eden).
By Act Two the anthems really take over the show and the Women’s Moment pressed on with “These Boots Are Made for Walking” (Faith and Eden), “I Am Woman” and the big disco anthem “I Will Survive” (Rosa). But by the 1990’s, it was time to lighten up a bit and we all bounced along to Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Want to Have Fun.” Lauper pointed us to a bright, happy future of equality and acceptance. Or maybe not. Music can sell ideas, but the ideas still need time become generally acceptable. But there’s a positive flow of energy on this stage, even if most tunes are stripped down to a verse or two, but that keeps the evening flowing. And perhaps some day soon we can fill the house with vaccinated and liberated fans and return to a cast greeting line and drinks in the theater. Overall, it looks like we are tapering up to big party!