As a result of having recently witnessed Phoenix Theatre's production of Tintypes, I am much too ill to write a theater review this week. Instead, I am submitting the notes I made while watching this program, a musical revue about turn-of-the-19th-century America, which should (despite several lively performances by some of our better musical comedy stars) be avoided at all costs.
Things I'd Rather Be Doing Right Now: Sleeping; having my gallbladder removed; giving birth to shattered china; anything that doesn't involve watching local talent squandered; anything that doesn't involve 47 musical numbers about the plight of the working class in pre-World War I America.
What I'm Wondering While I Watch These Actors Embarrass Themselves: What possessed playwright Mary Kyte to create a musical revue about 1890s social injustice, immigration, politics and vaudeville? When was the last time anyone asked to hear "Ta-Ra-Ra Boom-De-Ay!"? If this show sucks when presented by clever performers like Stephen Goodfriend and Katherine Todd, what must it be like with a less talented cast? Do the players resent having to appear in dreck in order to keep their Equity cards? Does Phoenix Theatre have a death wish? If actors were paid to write commentaries about theater critics, what would they say?
Minorities That Are Misrepresented in Tintypes: African Americans; the wealthy; vaudevillians; Italian immigrants; politicians; socialists; the poor; choreographers and lighting designers with talent.
Tricks to Avoid If I Am Ever Stupid Enough to Write a Musical: Production numbers that end in a kick line; all forms of pantomime; musical numbers that employ intricate choreography involving a tambourine; audience participation; a medley that includes "You're a Grand Old Flag" and "Bill Bailey, Won't You Please Come Home?"; the assumption that audiences will enjoy the notion of Teddy Roosevelt as a cuddly song-and-dance man.
Things to Compare This Production To If I Decide to Review It: An appendectomy, sans anesthesia; every one of the cheesy floor shows at Disneyland; an addle-brained commercial for patriotism; a conspiracy designed to destroy the careers of several of our more talented local singer/actors; an unpleasant form of torture.
A Role Better Suited to Musical Theater Actresses Who've Recently Left a Road Company of The Phantom of the Opera: Doorstop.
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Theories About the Wig Michelle Gardner Wears in This Show: It's meant to inspire sympathy; it's on backward; costumer Stephen M. Miller is jealous of the glowing reviews Gardner has received this season (while his work goes largely unnoticed), and he's punishing her by making her wear a turd on her head.
Good Things That Happened at Tintypes: Katherine Todd sang "Nobody"; Michelle Gardner sang "Jonah Man"; I met Shauna Rabinowitz's sister at intermission; nobody sang "Danny Boy"; Amy Jo Arrington occasionally left the stage; I was able at last to experience outspoken socialist leader Emma Goldman as a musical-comedy star; the curtain eventually came down.
Warnings I Should Have Heeded: Every one of the people I invited to see this show declined my invitation; when the first number (a long, long medley that included a galling rendition of "Come Take a Trip in My Airship") ended, no one applauded; when I told my friend Veronica that I was going to see Tintypes, she said, "Gee, that's too bad."
Possible Other Uses for Tintypes: As a replacement for rat poison; as a tool for parents who want to keep their children from studying theater arts; as a means of making death seem more attractive. Phoenix Theatre's production of Tintypes continues through Sunday, February 27, on the company's mainstage, 100 East McDowell.