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A CurtainUp Los Angeles Review
Body Snatchers: The Musical
by Laura Hitchcock

A polished production and dynamic cast inhabit bBody Snatchers: The Musical, now playing at The Odyssey before tours to Atlanta this spring and off-Broadway this fall. When the "Body Snatchers" rise up singing in their latest incarnation, you know it's going to be wonderful or terrible. By now it's almost an American classic.

Jack Finney's novel became a first class chiller in 1956 as Invasion of the Body Snatchers when Kevin McCarthy and Dana Wynter fled aliens budding in pods in their basements until sleepy time overtook the originals and the pod people took over their bodies. This hit a nerve in the Cold War era when rumors of soulless Communists and their insidious infiltration permeated the zeitgeist. It was remade twice, most laudably in the blooming 1978 Technicolor version directed by Philip Kaufman and starring Donald Sutherland and Leonard Nimoy.

Today's terrorist climate seems perfect for another go at it but this production started life two years ago and Ed Howard, a co-author of Greater Tuna, has planted his pods squarely in farce country. Elegant Dana Wynter has become Becky, the porn star, deliciously played by DeLee Lively whose dancing and acting skills inspire confidence from step one. We have broad lampoons of lesbian lovers, a cop in black leather, a dominatrix falling in love with her boy toy and nerdy Dr. Miles, who has nothing in common with Kevin and Donald but fear and a lecherous nurse. Becky's crabby Daddy in his wheel chair is tended by sister Wilma who is beyond definition.

Bob Lesoine has composed an eerie rock opera score with be-bop and gospel elements and some melodious ballads. Pianist/music director J. Michael interprets with dazzling Úlan.

The show's main problem is Howard's book, even if broad bathroom humor is your thing. Act II has far more dialogue than music. It's the show's weakest element and goes nowhere.

There's a lot that could be done with this concept beyond horny small town misfits and pods that are ultimately transformed in the name of love. At the very least, the pod people should be portrayed as different from the originals in dialogue and presence.

There are some good ideas such as the female trio in black velvet representing ""Heartache, headache, and hopelessness", in a number crooned to pining Nurse Nancy, and DeLee Lively's slyly soulful dance number which opens Act II.

Director Thomas W. Jones, II, and choreographer Patdro Harris know their way around a stage and make the production brisk and sleek. The excellent cast includes striking Uki Amaechi as bullish Pat and versatile Maureen Davis as her daughter Joannie. Clinton Derrricks-Carroll finds the humor in his lusty boy toy dominated by throaty-voiced Michele Mais. T. C. Carson plays a big bad scary Sheriff Nick in black leather. William Knight gets the most out of Daddy, written as generic cantankerous geezer; his pod person freed from the wheelchair is at least more sleekly bossy. Stacy Sibley plays his daughter Wilma, a vaguely defined role which Sibley's mobile features animate. Dani Shear's Nurse Nancy gets to shed her whites for slinky scarlet and the smug expression that implies pod life may be better. Eric Eichenberger is hilariously nerdy as Dr. Miles.

Jaret Sacrey and Adam Gascoine's many-leveled set design dominated by a harvest moon works well on the Odyssey's tiny stage. It is complemented by John J. Fejes's lighting design. Reggie Ray designed the many colorful costumes but again had no leeway to express the poddies' personalities.

Hopefully, there's one more pod waiting to hatch in this promising concept.

Composer, Lyricist: Bob Lesoine:
Playwright, Lyricist: Ed Howard Director: Thomas W. Jones, II
Choreographer: Patdro Harris
Cast: Uki Amaechi (Pat), T.C. Carson (Sheriff Nick), Maureen Davis (Joannie), Clinton Derricks-Carroll (Jack), Eric Eichenberger (Dr. Miles), William Knight (Dad), DeLee Lively (Becky), Michele Mais (Theodora), Dani Shear (Nurse Nancy), Stacy Sibley (Wilma), J Michael (The Pianist)
Set Design: Jaret Sacrey, Adam Gascoine
Lighting Design: John Fejes
Costume Design: Reggie Ray
Music/Vocal Arrangements: William Hubbard
Running Time: Two hours 20 minutes with one 15-minute intermission
Running Dates: February 6-22, 2003
Where: The Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., West Los Angeles, Ph: (310) 477-2055
Reviewed by Laura Hitchcock on February 7.
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