Wednesday, September 10, 2014

theatre review THE ANGRY HOUSEWIVES, Arizona Broadway Theatre, Sept. 5

To read my review at Talkin' Broadway of The Angry Housewives at Arizona Broadway Theatre, just click on this link.

Molly Lajoie, Brian Sweis, Greg Kalafatas, Kathi Osborne, Rori Nogee, Conner Morley, Monica Ban and Sam Ramirez 

 I wasn't quite sure what to expect from the musical The Angry Housewives, the final show in Arizona Broadway Theatre's 2013-2014 season. Billed as a "punk rock" musical about angry women, and a fairly unknown show, I thought it might be a big letdown after ABT's season of successful, big Broadway-style musicals. Fortunately, it has a witty book, the punk rock music is humorously and only minimally used throughout, and it actually fits into the standard musical comedy mold, albeit one with plenty of satirical nods to the 1980s and the plight of the desperate housewife. With a talented cast and a book with plenty of comical moments, it is a show that will grow on you and make you laugh—a fun, successful end to ABT's ninth season.

Molly Lajoie rocking out with her fellow Housewives.
Four women, in an act of desperation, form a punk rock band to earn some much needed cash by entering a contest at the local punk rock club. Their newly formed band ends up creating rifts amongst the four, as well as with the men in their lives. A.M. Collins and Chad Henry created the show thirty years ago for a small Seattle theatre company, where it ran for several years. The musical also had a short Off-Broadway run in the mid-1980s and has received productions at various regional theatres across the country.

After a somewhat slow start, the premise is quickly introduced and the energy builds, leading up to the hilarious act one closer, "Cornflakes," with the women in their punk rock band outfits, a scene that will have you laughing silly. Act two presents additional dramatic conflicts, but also provides some sweet moments for the men to reflect upon the women in their lives. Even though none of the show's songs will stick with you for long, the raucous finale that includes another hysterical number from the band and the guys dressed up in comical costumes is so silly and fun that it sends the audience out on a high.

Now, the title is a bit misleading as, while all four are angry, technically only one (Jetta) is an actual housewife. The other frustrated women are Bev, a widowed single mother; Carol, a divorced high school teacher; and the unmarried Wendi. ABT's Casting and Artistic Producer Cassandra Klaphake has done her usual excellent job in not only finding four talented actresses to bring these ladies to life, but four skilled actors to play the men in their lives as well. All eight exhibit good comic skills as well as rich voices.

Kathi Osborne is feisty as Wendi, the toll bridge operator who has been dating a man named Wallace for many years, and comfortably portrays the leader of the group, although one who usually ends up chickening out of anything she convinces the group to do. While Collins' book is a bit lax in explaining exactly why Wendi has a problem following through on things, Osborne has no problem in bringing the self-confident Wendi vibrantly to life. Monica Ban is a riot as the gutsy, fun-loving Carol, who claims she's gained 40 pounds since her divorce two months previous. She and Osborne get the majority of the funny lines in the show, and both deliver in spades, with Ban's facial expressions and quick adlibs instilling even more humorous bits throughout.

Rori Nogee successfully shows that Bev is at her wit's end. Bev has bills to pay, not enough money, and a teenage son playing loud rock music on his guitar, and Nogee never lets the sense of desperation diminish, even when delivering Bev's self-assuring solo "Think Positive." Jetta has a controlling husband and is shy and timid with virtually no self-confidence. Molly Lajoie manages to not only show the prim and proper side of Jetta, but also the slightly out of control side once she lets loose. Lajoie's touching solo "Not at Home" is thoughtfully delivered.

As the men in the women's lives, Greg Kalfatas is sweet and funny as Wendi's boyfriend Wallace, who might just be more in love with fishing and his sailboat than with Wendi, and Sam Ramirez is just as humorous and touching as the punk club owner with a giant, spikey blue mohawk, Lewd Fingers, who falls for Carol. Their act one duet "Betsy Moberly" shows off their skilled vocals and dancing abilities. Brian Sweis puts across Jetta's anal-retentive husband Larry as a disapproving yet comical man who believes Jetta's place is in their home doing what he says, and his solo "Nobody Loves Me Anymore" nicely shows off Larry's understanding of the situation he's put himself in. Conner Morley does a fine job as Bev's teenage son Tim, providing nice comic touches, especially when he threatens to run away from home with his giant teddy bear under his arm. The four men, in those aforementioned act two closer costumes, also have a blast in their song "Stalling for Time."

From the group's first hilarious practice session, when they can't even play "Kumbaya" in sync, to the sweet natured scenes between Bev and Tim, as well as those with Wendi and Wallace, director Mace Archer manages a nice tone and pace throughout the show. He also has his actors instill the appropriate comic sensibilities in their characters without ever getting too broad or stereotypical. Choreographer Kurtis W. Overby provides a small amount of effective dance steps and movement throughout the show, complementing the varied music styles and characters.

Creative elements, as usual at ABT, are excellent. Brad Cozby's two-tiered set and Seattle skyline backdrop are simple yet detailed and don't overshadow the small cast. The vibrant costume designs by Elizabeth Kay Aaron are comical and include 1980s-appropriate styles, from blouses with shoulder pads to leg warmers, mohawks, spiked dyed hair, facial piercings, and neon-colored wigs. Daniel Davisson's lighting design morphs from '80s sitcom lighting to all out rock concert moving colored lights, and Jason Llyn's sound design is crisp and clear. Music director Mark 4man, who just a few weeks back was leading the band of Jesus Christ Superstar at Desert Stages Theatre, gets rich vocals from the cast, especially in the blended harmonies, and somehow manages to make the five-piece band sound like it is twice that size.

While The Angry Housewives is a good but not great show, it is spirited, mindless fun. ABT's production has an excellent, game cast, impressive direction, choreography and creative elements with an act one closing number and a finale that make it a crowd-pleasing winning production.

The Angry Housewives runs through September 28th, 2014, at the Arizona Broadway Theatre, 7701 West Paradise Lane in Peoria. Tickets can be ordered at or by calling 623 776-8400.

 Photos: Mike Benedetto / Arizona Broadway Theatre

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