Sunday, September 10, 2006

Respect (Hanna Theatre)

‘RESPECT’ leaves ‘em screaming and dancing at the Hanna

Over the last century, the lives of women, have gone through a major transformation. This topic has been the subject of a number of musical and straight plays. ‘RESPECT: A MUSICAL JOURNEY OF WOMEN,’ now on stage at the Hanna Theatre, is another in the series. Judging from the opening night audience, this journey is going to have a lot of travelers on board.

Dorothy Marcic, the show’s author, based the script on her book, ‘RESPECT, WOMEN AND POPULAR MUSIC.’ That manuscript analyzed the top-40 female song lyrics since 1900. She conceived the show in a chronological sequence, mainly centering on the experiences of one woman, her female relatives and the individuals with who they came in contact, or were the movers and shakers during the 60-some year journey.

The author states, “ For more than the first half of the last century, the voices of women in Top-40 popular music has been one of neediness and dependency. I'll do anything for you; just be my baby, even if you're no good and treat me bad; just LOVE me and I'll stand by my man. By the end of the century, things were quite different. Popular music had come far enough so that women looked for the hero within themselves, were urged to get on their feet and make it happen, ready to stand on her own with or without a man.”

The conclusion that Marcic reaches is "I am woman-hear me roar," and "I will survive." Thus, women should find and follow their own dreams. Where this leaves men is another topic, one not dealt with in this script.

The script generally flows well with logical verbal and vocal transitions. Though a little long, a 90 minute one-act, rather than a two-act production would be preferable. Some songs could be easily dropped such as, “How Much Is That Doggie in the Window,” the television tunes segment, and “Video” even though it was cleverly choreographed.

The Hanna show is well directed by David Arisco, with strong music supervision by Phil Hinton and musical direction by Gary Rusnak. Russ Borski’s scenic design, Jean Tessier’s lighting design and Mary Lynn Izzo’s creative costumes add to the quality of the production. Though no choreographer is listed, the dance sequences were cleverly conceived.

The stars of the show, besides the songs, are the cast members. Working their way through the likes of “Bird In a Gilded Cage,” “Someone to Watch Over Me,” “I Enjoy Being a Girl,” “You Don’t Own Me,” and “R-E-S-P-E-C-T,” the four woman cast generally acted, danced and sang with purpose. They accomplished the goal of clearly interpreting the songs and using verbal transitions to further the author’s purpose.

Tina D. Stump, who is pure soul, wailed her way through “I Will Survive” and ripped her way through “Hard Hearted Hannah.” The woman controls the stage and every song she warbles.

Tricia Bestic is a dynamic and endearing performer. Her version of “As Long As He Needs Me” was electrifying. “I Wanna Be Loved By You” was a smile highlight as was “These Boots Are Made for Walking.”

Melissa Barber was generally fine, but, at times, she displayed some inconsistency in her vocalizations and song interpretations.

Paula Kline-Messner was excellent as the narrator. She was totally believable in the spoken segments and sang well.

Capsule judgment: ‘MENOPAUSE’ ran and ran and ran at the 14th Street Theatre in Playhouse Square. Judging by the opening night audience’s reactions, the same production group has another hit with RESPECT.