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A CurtainUp Review The Dressing Room

Jaid Barrymore
Tommy Femia
(Photo: Carol Rosegg )
The Dressing Room is probably the first musical with a song written and performed to accompany a bulimic audibly purging in the bathroom which also serves as the butt of several jokes. The bulimic is Jaid Barrymore as a slinky glamour girl named Jewel. Barrymore, like librettist and lyricist Mimi Scott and Sidney Myer (he plays Sheldon, the playwright-director of the play-within-the-musical, Yes, You Can Take It With You) are all graduates of the long-running interactive hit show Grandma Sylvia's Funeral. Grandma's repeat burials took place at the very SoHo Playhouse that is now home to The Dressing Room -- currently running only Tuesday nights and Saturday matinees even though the two-hander with which it was supposed to alternate, Maybe Baby, It's You , has departed to the netherland of shows whose open runs proved less open ended as planned.

The lingering influence of Grandma Sylvia's humor aside, The Dressing Room can't be faulted for lack of Chutzpah. If you're familiar with the SoHo Playhouse stage, you'll understand what I mean. It takes nerve and optimism to attempt to squeeze a large cast onto its handkerchief-sized stage. Yet that's exactly what director Dennis Edenfield has done. While Ms. Scott has pared down the characters from the show's debut production in Brooklyn, Edenfield is still left with nine actors. It makes for a busy-busy-busy production, especially during the first act when we're filled in on all the characters' roles in the never seen Yes, You Can Take It With You as well as the various backstage interactions and entanglements that weld actors into a family of sorts.

Not only is the stage bustling with actors but Ms. Scott has packed twenty catchy, if not uniformly distinctive, songs into the show. She has generously provided each member of the ensemble with at least one solo. Tommy Femia fans may be disappointed that he is not a star but just another member of the team. It's not until close to the end of the show that he does his big solo, "Has This Been My Mistake?" in which he rips off the raspberry colored wig he wears as a dominatrix named Sugar.

While this is hardly a dancing musical, Edenfield earns his second credit as choreographer by virtue of an amusing production number, "Chopped Liver and Gefilte Fish" in which Sheldon's (Sidney Myer) contemplation of a return to the simple life of mom's good cooking instead of bad diner food culminates in a Hora by the whole cast. For the most part the choreography consists of keeping everyone from bumping into each other as they pop in and out of the three entryways of Christopher Casoria's nicely detailed backstage set -- the already mentioned bathroom, a rear exit to the stage where the actors perform the play we hear about but never see, and a hallway with bulletin boards, show posters (one of Yes, You Can Take It With You and also one for the departed Maybe Baby, It's You ).

The cast is generally competent. The two singers who make the strongest impression are newcomers, Christine Nardone as the more than pleasingly plump wardrobe mistress Nicole and Melissa Marlin as Mona whose backstage romance with one of the actors (Paul Amodeo as Tony) is tied to their remaining on stage together. Fine gives a touching rendition of "Never a Bride." Ms. Barrymore's and Mr. Myer's voices are less than outstanding. Vincent Scialla and composer Matthew Gandolfo supply the musical accompaniment from backstage.

Will life imitate art and turn The Dressing Room into a long-running "cash cow" like Yes, You Can Take It With You? My guess is that the chances for that sort of longevity are about as good as earning rather than losing money any time soon.

Book & Lyrics: Mimi Scott Music: Matthew Gandolfo
Director/Choreographer: Dennis Edenfeld
Musical direction and accompaniment: Lloyd Arriola
CAST (in alphabetical order): Paul Amodeo, Jaid Barrymore, Tommy Femia, Nina Fine, Lorraine Fogliana, Melissa Marlin, Sidney Myer, Christine Nardone, Paula Newman
Set Design: Christopher Casoria
Lighting Design: David Zeffren
Costume Design: Jean Claude Mastroianni
Running time: 2 hours with one intermission SoHo Playhouse, 15 Vandam St.. (6th/7th Avs) 239-6200
Performances from 2/29/2000; opening 4/11/2000 Performances (until further notice), Tuesdays 8pm; Saturdays 2pm

Reviewed by Elyse Sommer based on April 5th performance
Sommer, CurtainUp.
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