A... My Name Is Alice's all-female cast does a remarkable job
Conceived by Joan Micklin Silver and Julianne Boyd. Directed by Rick Tae. Presented by Skycorner Productions with VACT. At Studio 1398 on Granville Island on Thursday, August 15. Continues until August 25
Mounting an all-female musical revue is as rare in 2013 as it was in 1983 when A... My Name Is Alice made its New York debut. The five women who star in this Vancouver premiere deserve an opportunity to shine. A... My Name Is Alice delivers enough of those moments to make it an enjoyable night, but not enough to make it a triumphant one.
With 21 numbers and a few monologues written by a fascinating and diverse group of people, including Marta Kauffman and David Crane (creators of Friends), Winnie Holzman (creator of My So-Called Life), and Lucy Simon (creator of the musical The Secret Garden and Carly Simon’s sister), there’s some smart, sharply crafted material that still resonates 30 years later.
But 30 years is also long enough to render several of the numbers out of date. “Emily the M.B.A.” posits that the titular character gets so caught up in male-centred corporate greed that she turns her back on the sisterhood and ends up driving off a bridge. That’ll teach her! During the reprise of “All Girl Band”, the women sing about how they can do it all and be it all, but then one pipes up about how she still can’t park a car. Gag.
While I applaud director Rick Tae’s decision to produce something so women-centric, he sets Alice “everywhere” at “anytime” rather than firmly in 1983 where it belongs. He changes lines throughout, sometimes to reference Vancouver instead of New York, or when a character mentions So You Think You Can Dance or whips out an iPhone. But he opts to leave in a stale, tired joke about how women still can’t park? These moments aren’t just frustrating; they threaten to sap the empowerment right out of Alice’s bones.
Still, the cast hoists the production up on some very capable shoulders. The actors do a remarkable job slipping in and out of characters and costumes, rapidly shifting gears and registers between musical numbers with considerable nuance, considering most of them are still quite new to theatre. Danielle Lemon and Rosie Simon are standouts in a strong ensemble. Lemon’s voice is full and rich, and her comedic timing is perfect. Simon has all the makings of a star: the small stage is never more alive than when she performs “The French Monologue & Song”. It should be a novelty number, but Simon transforms it with charm and wit.
Ultimately, Alice is all about the women, and this cast deserves an audience—even if the audience deserves a better show.