Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Sphinx Winks

Rebecca Riker and Bret Shuford

No less than five authors are responsible for this 90 minute Burlesque throwback of a musical: book and lyrics by Philip Capice, Anne Hitchner, Kenneth Hitchner, Jr., Robert Keuch and music by Kenneth Hitchner, Jr. According to the program notes this musical was conceived in the 1950s and was formerly three hours long. Now that it finally sees the light of day a half century later it is a blessing that the material has been chopped down to 90 minutes. However, even that is too long, for this trite, unoriginal, unfunny show with a mediocre cast to put it over is a dismal failure. Director Matthew Hamel found some charm in the idea of bringing back this style of show. It has been done much better with FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM and several of the Rodgers and Hart musicals such as THE BOYS FROM SYRACUSE. THE SPHINX WINKS uses the story of Caesar and Cleopatra as a setting for the fun, but there is not one single attempted joke that lands and not one musical number that can inspire more than dutiful applause for the sake of being polite to a hard working cast that couldn’t possibly save the show. Even if Cleopatra had been played by Donna Murphy, Marc Antony played by Hugh Jackman and Caesar played by Nathan Lane, the material could not be salvaged. To be kind, it should be said that handsome Bret Shuford does well as Marc Antony and multiple roles where he must become ridiculous cartoon characters. He dances well in the only choreographed moment of note with Rebecca Riker as Crecia. Riker partners with Shuford beautifully and both have attractive singing voices. Bruce Sabath as a character man (read lead comedian in Burlesque terms) version of Julius Caesar is proficient, but has little he can do to elevate the part or the show. Erika Amato wears the label of Cleopatra to little effect, though she sings her mundane songs with plenty of spirit and tries her best to adopt a comic persona. Beth Cheryl Tarnow is forced to spend the proceedings performing an irritating gag of singing off key, while Ryan Williams as the host and narrator of the evening fails at delivering one bad joke after another. The high school production level set by Robert Andrew Kovach was all that the material deserved and Gail Baldoni’s rudimentary costumes got the idea across economically. Not one dime should have been put into bringing this show to life, for in the end it was a complete waste of time.

Tifft Productions at The Beckett Theatre through July 24th.

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