The Little Shubert Theatre on West 42 Street has the unfortunate stigma of being known as the house that launched a thousand flops. Well as in everything else in life the tide has finally changed with the opening of “LUCKY GUY” a sure fire crowd pleaser for those interested in having pure unadulterated tongue in cheek campy fun.
The scene is set in Nashville where hunky/sexy singer/songwriter Billy Ray Jackson (a terrific hunky/sexy/singer Kyle Dean Massey) has arrived from Oklahoma after winning a songwriting contest that G.C. Wright (Jim Newman) of Right Track Records is going to record and make it the biggest hit ever.
However his pint sized cousin Big Al Wright, a sleazy used car salesman (the impish and riotously funny Leslie Jordan) has other ideas. Namely to steal the song and have the Queen of Country Music, Miss Jeannie Jeannine (his partner in crime) who is played by drag queen Varla Jean Merman to the hilt – sing “Lucky Guy” (which happens to be a great tune) on his TV special.
Wanda (Savannah Wise) who came up with the contest of course falls for Billy Ray and he falls for her as Jeannie Jeannine attempts in great cougar style to divert his attentions. Chicky Lay (a perfect Jenn Colella) is the intended of G.C. looking for her own hit single while combing out wigs at the local Beauty Salon. And speaking of wigs of which there are many Paul Huntley deserves credit for their visual comical designs.
Rounding out the company are The Buckaroos (Callan Bergmann, Xavier Cano, Wes Hart and Joshua Woodie) who sing Country Western/Barbershop style and dance with abandon – choreography courtesy of A. C. Ciulla as Cowboys, Indians, Footmen and Hawaiian Warriors in an outlandish Act II number “Louis From Kahului”.
Willard Beckham is responsible for this entire madcap invention. Book, Music and Lyrics as well as direction are all his. There are some really catchy songs and the lyrics range from truly witty to truly groan inducing – but on purpose. The score is a toe tapping foot stomping mixture of Country, Bluegrass, Broadway, Vaudeville and Pop pleasing melodies.
Leslie Jordan, as usual, is a hoot. Just to see him standing up to C cup level beside Miss JJ is a visual treat you won’t soon forget. He doesn’t miss a trick or a laugh and tries to steal every scene which is a might difficult when you have the likes of a diva drag queen to contend with.
Varla Jean Merman (Jeffrey Roberson) looking like a cross between Bernadette Peters and Jane Froman as she enters for her first big number where she glides across the stage on rollers beneath her costume/gown with the lyrics of her last hit “Blue Jean Blues” emblazoned so that we can sing along is simply awesome. She shines throughout and not just from all those sequins. She’s great, not only in the many high camp scenes but when she plays for real you believe her. Quite an accomplishment in this silly show.
It appears that costume designer William Ivey Long has been given carte blanche here and his imagination unleashed is a Ziegfeld Follies Trailer Park Drag Queen’s dream come true.
Too much of a good thing can become tiresome and a few nips and tucks here and there might make LUCKY GUY the hit it deserves to be.
Through July 24th. www.luckyguythemusical.com Photo: Joan Marcus
THIS JUST IN: LUCKY GUY TO CLOSE SUNDAY 5/29/11. The jinx lives on…
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