There’s plenty of enthusiasm on display in Oliver Fannie

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By Rebecca Franklin (Melody Mangler). Directed by Diva Mercedes Gould. Produced by Screaming Chicken Theatrical Society. At the Waterfront Theatre on Thursday, August 23. Continues until September 1

Yes, you get to see some lovely breasts, but as with tap concerts and school recitals, the only real reason to see this show is if you know somebody in the cast.

The burlesque troupe Screaming Chicken has delivered generally successful productions in the past, including Greece Does Grease and the memorable Shine, but this one doesn’t hold together.

Writer Rebecca Franklin, who goes by the stage name Melody Mangler, borrows tunes from both Oliver! and Annie and lays in new lyrics, so the song list includes “Boobs, Glorious Boobs”, “It’s a Hard Cock Life”, and “You’ve Got to Use a Finger or Two”. Franklin’s script tells the story of Oliver Fannie, a sexually oppressed young woman who goes on a round-the-world voyage unleashing her libido. This might sound promising, but the script is weak. There are lots of dull, talky scenes, and most of the material is wit-free. Fannie’s mother belongs to a group called Christians Upholding Noble Truth Society, or CUNTS. Lyrics rarely rise above the level of “Consider your ass worn in/Consider your legs open for business.” I’m all for transgression, but transgression without style, insight, or originality is dull.

There’s plenty of enthusiasm on display, but not enough talent or technique. Violet Femme (the program mostly lists stage names) plays a madam named Pink Dragon: Violent Femme can sing and she knows how to command the stage. In terms of performance, she’s the best thing in the show, but she’s only got a small part.

This is probably a good time to point out that these folks aren’t professional performers. They’re doing it for fun and, at its best, there’s a friendly community feel about Oliver Fannie. Karly Palmer plays the title role, and although she can’t vocally handle her first big number, a parody of Annie’s “Maybe”, she delivers a spirited performance and sings well elsewhere. A guy who goes by the name Tranny Zukko has funny moments as Fannie’s almost-talking dog, Tickle Licks, and Denton Booth throws himself into the role of Sultan Atul Indid. But under Diva Mercedes Gould’s direction, performers forget to listen to one another and the pacing is slack. That said, some of the glittering costumes are pretty and the group numbers generally work better than the solos and duets.

Sadly, Oliver Fannie feels longer than its two-and-a-half hours. And unlike the women, the men hardly ever take their clothes off. What’s that about?

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