Wednesday, March 21, 2007


‘LEGENDS’: legends trying to play legends

The late James Kirkwood, author of ‘LEGENDS,’ which is now on stage at the Palace Theatre, is a former resident of Elyria. In fact, the moorish house in which his mother, movie star Lila Lee lived on Washington Avenue, was supposedly the setting for his book ‘THERE MUST BE A PONY.’ He is also the co-author of the much awarded ‘CHORUS LINE.’ But, it’s not the Kirkwood name that is bringing in patrons to the Palace Theatre, it’s the monikers of Joan Collins and Linda Evans.

Joan Collins and Linda Evans are best known as the duo who starred as rivals in ‘DYNASTY,’ the 1980’s late evening soap opera. In the play, as in the TV show, they play characters who hate each other.

This is not ‘LEGENDS’ first showing in Cleveland. In the late 1980s a production starring Carol Channing and Mary Martin appeared here. The show had negative reviews for both the script and the performances and closed before the run of the tour was completed. Part of the reason for the closing was real-life conflicts between Channing and Martin. The friction is recounted in Kirkwood’s book ‘DIARY OF A MAD PLAYWRIGHT.’

As with the previous version, the producers intend to bring the show to Broadway after it finishes its tour.

‘LEGENDS’ centers on two desperate movie stars who are courted by an unscrupulous young producer to star in a Broadway show. He convinces them to be in the play because it would star Paul Newman. He also knows that both are financially destitute. Collins is Sylvia Glenn, the acerbic star originally played by Channing. Evans takes on Martin's part, the seemingly sweet Leatrice Monsee.

The script is not great. Parts of it are funny, but, in the main, the ideas are forced and predictable. Of the two stars, Collins is the more capable. She keys most of her laugh lines and seems to be having a great time. On the other hand, Evans is emotionally flat. She appears uncomfortable on stage. Her soft voice and underplayed personality worked on television, but the stage requires more. She’s like a wind-up Barbee doll with a mechanical voice.

The high points of the production center on three of the supporting characters. Tonye Patano is hilarious as Aretha, the caustic maid.

Joe Farrell is extremely funny as Martin, the producer. The scene, which follows his eating some hashish-laced brownies, is one of the funniest that you will ever see. There was spontaneous and prolonged applause following this segment.

Will Holman as Boom-Boom, a stripper hired to entertain at a bachelorette party, who errantly shows up during the negotiation between Sylvia and Leatrice, is dynamic. A scene in which he makes his well-developed exposed pecs dance brought extended laughter . At one point he wears only a small red heart on each buttock and a high hat covering his privates. The audience loved it.

Capsule judgment: Don’t go to see ‘LEGENDS’ expecting a well written and performed play. But don’t let that stop you. You will laugh, you will probably enjoy yourself, and that’s what many theatre-goers want. The chances of this production making it on Broadway? Nil!!