Conner and Brianne McFadden
It’s hard to believe Moonlight’s 39th summer season is coming to an end. Moonlight tends to save the best for last, so it’s no surprise they closed out the season with San Diego’s regional premiere of Victor/ Victoria! There is nothing drab or boring about this musical! It has all the shiny bells and whistles including over-the-top elaborate sequin costumes and extravagant sets used in the Broadway production. Director and Choreographer, John Vaughn, has beautifully executed his directorial touch while at the same time providing razzle-dazzle choreography that is intelligent and captivating, allowing the cast to showcase their talents and leaving the audience mesmerized.
Victor/ Victoria is a classic musical comedy about Victoria Grant, played by Allison Spratt Pearce, who plays a talented soprano singer struggling to get work in the nightclubs of Paris. All seems lost until she meets Toddy, played by Lance Arthur Smith, a recently unemployed gay cabaret singer. In a fateful encounter Toddy and Victoria each share they feel life would be so much easier if they were the opposite gender. When Toddy’s ex-lover makes an expected visit and gets walloped by Victoria, Toddy gets a brilliant idea. What if Victoria pretended to be a man who is pretending to be a woman? Victoria reluctantly and out of desperation agrees. Victoria, now playing the role of Victor and represented by Toddy, becomes Europe’s most famous female impersonator. To make matters even more complicated Victoria falls in love with Chicago gangster King Marchant played by Hank Stratton, who is reluctant to admit he might love her/him back. Both are crazy for the other but resist the relationship out of fear of what others may think if they were together.
Allison and Lance have great chemistry on stage. Both have stunning voices, able to reach high power notes in perfect unison with precise harmonies captivating the audience with charm, humor, and emotion. Their performances bring a solid mix of pain and passion, tenderness and strength. The fabulous set and neon sign serves as an eye-catching backdrop in Allison’s masterfully delivered solo of “Le Jazz Hot.” Her sensational vocal power is rich and she is able to hit several “glass-shattering” high notes. Lance’s comic timing is sublime. He has a knack for capturing the more sensitive side of the role as well, setting the tone with “Paris By Night” and carrying his charm and high energy throughout the entire show.
One of the most impressive sets of the show was the two story side-by-side adjoining hotel suites decorated floor to ceiling in the 1930’s decor of red velvet and gold trim. It’s here where the audience could not get enough of the “hide-n-seek” scene where King sneaks into Victoria and Toddy’s suite while locking himself out of his own. What ensued was complete chaos with different characters hiding under beds, in closets, and in bathrooms, hoping not to be caught.
The high-caliber cast includes several other standout performances worth mentioning including Norma, played by Bets Malone, who was the glue that held the madness together with her shrill- squeaky voice and over the top renditions of “Paris makes me horny” and “Chicago Illinois.” Bets gave an incredible performance and may have been the best of the night. King’s bodyguard Squash Bernstein, played by Johnny Fletcher, brings the perfect balance of toughness and laughter, and saves the best for last by hitting a stunning high note right in the last song “Victor/ Victoria.” The sleazy and suspicious nightclub owner Henri Labisse, played by Moonlight favorite Luke H. Jacobs, had the laugh of the night in the scene where he attempts to climb a ladder up two stories to spy on Victoria to prove she is a woman, only to fall and end up in a cast.
Moonlight’s “Victor/Victoria” is a clever production of the 1995 Broadway show and is the perfect way to end another great season. Moonlight’s 39th season may be over, but there are many more must-see concerts and events to experience at Moonlight amphitheatre year-round. Check out their website, www.moonlightstage.com, for more details.