Wednesday, December 14, 2005

"The Breakup Notebook" Gets a Rave

(Link) That gay cowboy movie may be getting lots of airtime, but a funny and sincere little lesbian musical is gathering lots of attention in the world of live theater.

1 comment:

LNewsEditor said...

JIC Post:
By Steve Oxman
Variety Magazine

Sometimes, an absence only becomes apparent when clever folks decide to fill it. Who knew the world was missing a lesbian musical? Well, here it is, "The Break Up Notebook: The Lesbian Musical," and despite its awkward title and generic plot-line, it's good-natured and musically energetic enough to be a charmer.

It would be easy here to crack some jokes about how musical comedy is a form that belongs not to lesbians but to gay men, and that lesbians would instead usually be handling the technical side of the theatrical operation, keys hanging from the belt loop of their jeans and all that. But that would be stereotyping, wouldn't it? And that's wrong, right, even if it's funny?

Let's put it this way: Those who find such broad cliches offensive would be well-advised to steer clear of "The Break Up Notebook," since this is a show that embraces such stereotypes far more than it attempts to challenge them.

The story centers on Helen Hill (an extremely capable Heidi Godt), who has recently been dumped (badly) by her girlfriend, who quickly shacked up with Helen's replacement. After a few months, Helen believes she's finally "past the stalking stage," although her queeny best friend Bob (an infinitely entertaining Patrick Bristow) knows otherwise.

The story follows Helen as she re-enters the dating scene and attempts to "get over" the break-up, and it all leads up to the moment when she's going to encounter her ex at the commitment ceremony of shared friends, butch Monica (Melody Butiu) and femme Joanie (Jacqueline Maloney).

A break-up, dates, friends, weddings (OK, commitment ceremonies) and the lotThe Lot. In case you can't tell, this is all familiar stuff. Lesbians, you see, are really just like everyone else, except they patronize different bars and watch more documentaries.

In the end, the story is put in full service of the songs. Taking off from Patricia Cotter's book (which is based on her play), composer Lori Scarlett delivers sprightly pop numbers that poke happy fun at the particularities of lesbian life in L.A.

The song "It Takes a Nail," for example, provides a montage of amusing dating scenes, including one with a spot-on New Yorker and another with a recovering alcoholic at a line-dancing club (she's a "12-stepping two-stepper"). "That's Our Song" is an amusing take on how couples select songs to represent them, with Monica working her way through the Indigo Girls catalog. Another comic number, "The Chicks and Dicks Bossa Nova," has Helen and Bob parodying the differences between lesbians and gay men.

There are less jokey songs, those that give us a sense of real feeling. But the tone here is always chipper and, since the characters remain fairly superficial, it's the humor that carries the show.

Director Sue Hamilton has assembled an impeccable, highly professional cast, and the production possesses an undeniable peppiness and polish. With a clear base audience and a mainstream sensibility, it's easy to imagine this show being around for a while.