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[whitespace] 'Victor/Victoria' Clothes Make the Man: Toddy (Lee Roy Reams) watches as a disguised Victoria (Jennifer Allen) charms a gangster's moll (Riette Burdick).


Jazz Age Farce

American Musical Theatre of San Jose dazzles with 'Victor/Victoria'

By Heather Zimmerman

THE BEST BEDROOM farces offer more than just door-slamming mistaken-identity romps, and Victor/Victoria is one such better farce, aligning the new attitudes of the Jazz Age with a few folks' newfound liberation in bucking traditional gender roles. American Musical Theatre of San Jose closes its season with the West Coast premiere of the Blake Edwards musical in a production that, like its title character, knows the value of showmanship.

Jennifer Allen's voice fills the bill for the classically trained soprano Victoria, who can't find a job in 1930s Paris until she finds a mentor in drag-club diva Toddy (Lee Roy Reams, both comfortingly maternal and hilarious). Toddy sees that Victoria's voice, ordinary enough for a woman, would impress if believed to be a man's voice. A few superficial changes later, Victoria finds tremendous success by impersonating a female impersonator named Victor, an expatriate Polish count. But the attentions of a visiting Chicago gangster, King Marchan (Thom Sesma), threaten Victoria's career, as the gangster, utterly smitten by her all-too-convincing drag act, becomes desperate to disprove Victor's "masculinity." Sesma imbues King with enough macho-cool to get some laughs from this, ahem, straight role.

Victor/Victoria the stage musical marks one of those increasingly common instances in which the movie preceded the musical. Allen takes on the unenviable challenge of a role associated almost entirely with Julie Andrews (who also had the role on Broadway), but her zest in the part proves her equal to it. Unfortunately, the sound does not meet the challenge of amplifying Allen's voice: her higher notes, as well as those of some other cast members, are turned up so loud that they sound distorted.

The volume on the acting is set equally high, but it works well. Director M. Seth Reines never lets us forget that we're watching a classic farce--a masterfully choreographed chase through adjoining two-story hotel rooms offers ample proof of that. Reines' broadly comic approach lends the entire show an irrepressible exuberance, punching up the energy on the large ensemble musical numbers--particularly the show's signature tune, "Le Jazz Hot," as well as on more low-key songs like "Paris by Night." Willa Kim's costumes, Art Deco masterpieces in feathers and rhinestones, add the proper amount of sparkle to send the spectacle blissfully right over the top. And Victor/Victoria is all about being dazzled by the spectacle--and offstage, blinded by appearances. The romances here, whether between boy and girl or boy and boy, are deliberately mundane; whoever is tripping into whomever's bed, it's not really important--it's all good fun and that's just the point.


Victor/Victoria plays Thursday-Friday at 8pm, Saturday at 2 and 8pm and Sunday at 2pm through June 3 at the San Jose Center for the Performing Arts, 255 Almaden Blvd., San Jose. Tickets are $40-$60. (888.455.SHOW)

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From the May 31-June 6, 2001 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2001 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

For more information about the San Jose/Silicon Valley area, visit sanjose.com.




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