Review: 'Ecstasy, the Musical' at Art/Works Theatre
A dizzying amount of skill boogies around "Ecstasy, The Musical" at Art/Works Theatre. The degree that S. Claus' oddball tuner about virginal 1970s coeds succeeds is directly proportional to director-choreographer Kay Cole, some resourceful designers and a full-throttle cast.
College student Angel (Lisa Marinacci) yearns for boyfriend Tom (Meyer DeLeeuw) to consummate their relationship. When that doesn't happen, Tom takes a walk on the wild side, which deposits him in the Land of Ecstasy. Here, hedonists in electric-hued Spandex worship the Olivia Newton-John-flavored Queen (Marinacci), who targets Tom as her ultimate conquest.
The "Dance Fever"-meets-"Xanadu" ethos is a natural for Cole, aided by costumer Suzanne Klein's woozy-making outfits, Diane Martinous' eye-popping wigs and Matt Richter's disco-inflected lighting. Her ensemble, zipping in and out of set designer Kurtis Bedford's cyclorama, is wholly accomplished. DeLeeuw has the comic charm and rapid vibrato of a born juvenile lead. Marinacci deftly shifts from bespectacled nerd to lithe siren. Dina Buglione's show-stopping hooker, Patrick Hancock's affable androgyne, Gina D'Acciaro's big-voiced Black Widow and Sean Smith's pro-celibacy cult leader are other standouts.
Yet their efforts battle an anorexic narrative that is barely a premise, let alone a plot. Claus is talented, if not above rhyming "fetish" with "coquettish," his tunes pleasant pastiches under Brent Crayon's musical direction. However, they're not really theater songs, and the net effect is about as erotic as a "Brady Bunch" special. Fans of era kitsch may dig "Ecstasy," but its lasting impression is akin to half a Benzedrine in Sprite.
-- David C. Nichols
"Ecstasy, the Musical," Art/Works Theatre, 6569 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood. 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays. Ends July 12. $25. (323) 960-7789. Running time: 1 hour, 45 minutes.
Caption: From left: Nicci Claspell, Julie Carrillo, Sharyn Gabriel, Gina D'Acciaro. Credit: Michael Lamont