Look What They've Done to My Song, Ma

All season long, Actors Theatre has been threatening us with its production of Tapestry: A Musical Revue Based on the Music of Carole King. Earlier this month, this usually clever troupe delivered on that threat. The good news is that the horror will end shortly -- Tapestry closes on Sunday night. The bad news is what it's doing, in the meantime, to King's lovely music.

Editor's Note: After our deadline, the show's run was extended to May 15.

As staged by Tim Bair, this Tapestry is as much an homage to cheesy casino stage shows as it is to King's kicky oeuvre. This is the kind of crap that Phoenix Theatre has often tried to pass off as entertainment: a smiley, soulless parade of hokum that turns some of the best pop songs in the history of recorded music into lifeless jingles. Think "Up With People" with less pizzazz.

I won't embarrass the cast members, some of whom can really sing, by naming them here. I will take them to task for not going out on strike when asked to enact Bair's cornball choreography, and for performing blank-stare ballads, each of them aimed straight into the highest balcony. The ample song-and-dance talents of these five players are entirely wasted on corny cheer-squad routines and the Vegas kitsch of an Act Two opener that sets King's "Looking Out for Number One" to a disco beat -- because apparently nothing is sacred. All of this awfulness is trumped by an unimaginable duet between one of the cast and the band's guitarist, Bill Bellamak, who performs his part of "Pierre" (a song that should not be heard outside of a day-care center) with all the sparkle of a cigar-store Indian.

The design crew has also run amok. The stage is strewn with what looks like a lot of toilet paper, which magically distributes itself into various carefully lighted patterns before the show gets going. Less magical are Connie Furr's various oatmeal-colored garments, all of them designed to show off the rather prominent nipples of the cast. Two of the players are bald, which means there are two fewer of Manuela Needhammer's ugly hairdos littering the stage.

The author of "Up on the Roof," "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow," "The Locomotion" and dozens of other hits -- all of them put to death here -- deserves better. This tatty Tapestry serves only to answer the musical question: Can Carole King's music be rendered lifeless and cruddy? Unfortunately, it can.

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