Fabulous!, which returns to Off-Broadway after a successful run last fall, is an unabashed gay mash-up of Anything Goes and Some Like it Hot, where two best-friend drag queens, Laura Lee Handle (Tobias Young) and Jane Mann (DaWoyne A. Hill), working in Paris in a cheesy musical revue, witness the shooting of the star of the show. As everyone scurries frantically to get away, a priceless necklace falls off the victim and is retrieved by Laura Lee. The best friends flee the crime scene.
Penniless and jobless, the two drag queens accept a gig on a cruise ship; a job that is for real girls. They will have to pass for girls to keep this job. Derby’s book and lyrics are well constructed and clever enough to keep the narrative and the quick pace moving forward. Laura Lee and Jane, however, are simply generic drag queens with generic lines to deliver; neither is a diva. The musicals that Fabulous!”emulates have strong leads with ironic and elaborate fatal flaws; Fabulous! doesn’t. Young and Hill, on the other hand, are splendidly charming and believable playing men playing women passing for real women.
On board the Good Ship Ethel May, the plot thickens and we meet the rest of the cast of characters. Two gangsters, “Hell’s Kitchen” Harry Babcock (Alexander Price) and his sister, Betty “Bazooka” (Kelsey Youmans), turn out to be the shooters in Paris and are in pursuit of the necklace that Laura Lee still has in her possession. We learn that the cruise director, Sylvia Smothers (Rebecca Kopec), portly and anything but ladylike, is not happy with the new entertainment arrangements and employs Stewey (Michael James Valvo), a dutiful yet surly porter, to help her rehearse and replace Laura Lee in that evening’s performance. Meanwhile, Sir Alfred Dooalot (Steven Bidwell), owner of the ship which he just inherited from his recently departed mother, does very little, and is determined to find love. And there is the handsome young Hollywood star, Rock Henderson (Jonathan Grunert).
When love is in the air, straight men, unknowingly, are smitten by men in drag, gay men with woman, women with woman that are really men; pandemonium. This, you might think, is a hilarious set up for this farce, and it is. Derby gets to the summit, but never sends it over the top. There are some amusing moments, and the action is mostly humorous, but there are no guffaws. Nonetheless, the cast on the whole does an excellent job in their roles while keeping the show light and gay. There is a chorus of four adorable and young twinks, Kyle DuPree, Joel Chambers, Joel Libed, and Dan Coombs, that do a stupendous job. They are individually charming, entertaining, and talented dancers. They have the most originality of all the characters, since the others were based on iconic Broadway personalities.
Composer Rheault, supplies us with plenty of lively numbers indicative of the 30’s musical dance numbers. He sets the pace and the mood and writes fun melodies full of humor and perk. Young does a great job performing the burlesque style production numbers while Hill departs from the fast paced levity to sing “Just Me.” Hill fills the number with determination and desire, one of the better moments of the play. Kopec gets a load of laughs when she sings, “I Feel Romantic.”
Hamilton moves the 12 characters around a small stage seamlessly and artistically. The pace and timing flowed to maintain the mood and lightness of this farce. At the end of Act One, however, when all goes wild, Hamilton does not give the audience a focal point. Three or four scenarios are taking place at the same time. The entire cast of 12 actors are talking, singing, and/or dancing simultaneously creating chaos. Surely, some of the dialogue is not vital, but some of it is. Which of it is is not clear. This scene is not crisp and loses the jaw-dropping reaction that should be there.
The functional yet simple set by Kathleen Moriarty serves the actors and the story as does the choreography (Mary Lauren), lighting design (David Goldstein), and costumes (Maya Graffagna).
Fabulous! is a harmless light hearted, gay musical comedy that will put a smile on your face and is good for a chuckle or two, but you won’t be rolling in the aisles with laughter.
Fabulous! (Through May 17th, 2015)
New Write Act Repertory Theatre
Times Square Arts Center, 300 West 43rd Street, 2nd Floor, in Manhattan
For tickets, 1-800-838-3006 ext.1 or visit http://www.brownpapertickets.com
Running time: two hours and 15 minutes including one intermission