Love challenges gender identity in twisted ‘Victor/Victoria’ comedy


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How’s this: A woman plays a man who plays a woman on stage? Confused? Throw in a man falling in love with the illusion of a woman playing a man, only to discover he’s a she in disguise.

The Barn Players current show, “Victor/Victoria” opens Nov. 14 and runs through Nov. 24 at the Arts Asylum, 9th & Harrison, Kansas City, Missouri, 64106. The tuneful merry romp through gender bending mayhem presents a laugh-filled look at a Paris gay night club in the 1930s when a down and out female performer finds a way to conceal her identity, posing a man. As a man, she finds work as a female impersonator in Paris. Because of her fabulous voice and her illusion she ascends to star status.

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To complicate matters, a gangster falls in love with the on-stage persona causing him to question his own sexuality. As a man, falling in love with another man portraying a woman causes problems. Does he love him? Can it be? What does a man do in the 1930s when he discovers his attraction to another man?

After the movie with Julie Andrews and her return to Broadway with the stage version, “Victor/Victoria” screams crowd pleaser. The Barn’s version, being the first ever in Kansas City screams “Sold Out Performance” for many of the upcoming shows. Secure tickets as soon as possible to insure open tickets. For a 7:30 opening night performance, lines already formed by p.m. for general seating locations. When a Thursday opening night generates that much anticipation, know that weekend performances will exceed seating capacity.

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“Come enjoy this witty, tuneful, comic romp that amusingly examines questions of gender, identity and love. Based on the memorable 1982 film of the same name, Victor/Victoria was written by the multi-award winning team of Blake Edwards (Breakfast at Tiffany’s), Henry Mancini (The Pink Panther), Leslie Bricusse (Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory), and Frank Wildhorn (Jekyll & Hyde),” the Barn Players said.

The character of Victor/Victoria comes to life via Erica Baruth, a regular at Barn productions and seen on other stages throughout the KC Metro. Baruth brings her stunning voice, sharp comedic timing, and well-developed acting skills to The Barn’s production. As Victor/Victoria, acting, singing, dancing, and timing carry the show. The chemistry among the other major characters leads the audience through the slap-stick comedy.

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As Victor/Victoria’s instigator and promoter, Toddy, Dudley Hogue equals Baruth in the singing, acting, and comedic timing. His delivery of the laugh-lines elicits the audience laughs. Hogue uses his body language and gestures as well as his facial expressions and vocal inflections to give Toddy a larger-than-life persona. Rest assured, Hogue wears the role well from start to finish.

For the love interest, Brian Larios lends his great sense of timing and clear baritone voice as the Chicago gangster, King Marchan. Larios plays the role with flair as he navigates from slap-stick to serious as each scene demands. His encounters with Victor/Victoria are fun-filled because the audience knows the gimmick, yet Larios makes the audience believe he does not.

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A classic dumb-blonde could not be dumber or more obnoxiously funny than the character of Norma as performed by Breena Caster. For her portrayal, Caster makes Norma bolder brasher, and broader than the other characters in the show. Her approach gives her a dominant stage presence, and, with the Brooklynese accent she brings the character of Norma to a major focus of the musical. The comedy number “Paris Makes Me Horny” gets the most laughs in the opening act. The delivery is fabulous.

Displaying a broader range of character, Christoph Cording, nails the character of Squash Bernstein, the “hit-man” of King Marchan. As Squash, Cording’s serious, frowning character provides him the chance to open the character as the show unfolds. Cording shows a flair for slap-stick and physical comedy along with his comic delivery of the part.

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Overall, “Victor/Victoria” demands a look. The show is fun-filled and typical of the type of movie pranks associated with Blake Edwards who created the Pink Panther movie series and the memorable 10. Edwards set up for pranks and jokes transferred to the live stage well in “Victor/Victoria.”

In a nutshell, “Stranded in early 1930’s Paris without a dime to her name, English soprano Victoria Grant undertakes an unusual path taking her from rags to riches. She will masquerade as a man, a renowned singing female impersonator, Count Victor Grazinski. Comic complications and confusions ensue when an attractive Chicago mobster enters the scenario and is determined to discover Count Victor’s secret,” the Barn said.

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The Barn’s production captures the comedy of the original movie. With the assistance of the production staff, the show shines. Costumes were fun and glitzy when needed. The set movement was well-done in the space that limits wing-space. Choreography makes the dance numbers exciting and the tapping loud. Lighting in the space presents a challenge, but the challenge was met. Sound design in Arts Asylum demands a sharp focus which is mostly met in “Victor/Victoria.” The set design and changes were handled well with easy alterations and moveable props to set each scene.

Have no doubts, “Victor/Victoria” delivers high-caliber family fun in a two-hour musical comedy making its Kansas City debut. With limited weekend performances, theatre enthusiasts need to book tickets immediately. This show will sell out many performances–fast.

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The cast of Barn Players production of “Victor/Victoria” includes: Erica Baruth as Victoria Grant / Victor; Dudley Hogue as Toddy; Brian Larios as King Marchan; Brenna Castor as Norma Cassidy; Christoph Cording as Squash Bernstein; Brenna McConaughey Henriette Labisse; and Korey Childs as Andre Cassell. Citizens of Paris are being played by: Jeannette Bonjour, Tony Francisco, Andrea Hobley, Megan McCranie, Ashley McGuire, Jessica Michael, Matt Runnels, Gabriel Van Dyne, Miles Wirth.

The show is being Directed by Kipp Simmons; with Musical Direction by Kevin Bogan; choreography is by Valerie Martin; Stage Management, MacKenzie Sammons; Scenic Construction, Bill Wright; Costume Design, Sarah Jeter; Lighting Design, Rachael Carney; Props Design, Zoie Perahoritis; and Sound Design, Sean Leistico; Joseph Majchrzak, Assistant Stage Manager; Kevin Fullerton, Graphic Design; Drew Corkill, Sound Operator.

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The “Victor/Victoria band is: Kevin Bogan, keyboard 1; Todd Gregory-Gibbs, keyboard 2; Deana Wagoner, keyboard 3; Frank Annechini, bass; Joel McCoy, drums; Blake Vignery, drums; Debbie Allen, reed1/2; Greg Taubran, reed 3; Ron Mundt, reed 4; Danielle Mays, reed 5; Michael Sevantes, trumpet; Chacko Finn, trombone 1; Ken Tysick, trombone 2; Kim Ico, violin.

“Victor/Victoria” plays Nov. 14-Nov. 24 Evening performances begin at 7:30 p.m and Sunday matinees begin at 2 p.m. Produced by Kansas City’s The Barn Players, all shows are at the Arts Asylum, 1000 East 9th Street, Kansas City, Missouri, 64106. Tickets prices are: $20 for adults; $18 for seniors 65+; Group tickets of 10 or more $15 each; Students (with ID) tickets $15.  Tickets may be purchased in advance via phone at: 913.432.9100, in person at the Arts Asylum box office prior to show, or online through The Barn Players website.

Tags: “Victor/Victoria” review, Arts Asylum, The Barn Players, Kansas City Theatre, Kansas City Performing Arts, Kansas City Arts & Entertainment



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