By Steve Dreyer
THEATER REVIEWThe San Diego REPertory Theatre’s production of an overhauled and thoroughly enjoyable “Storyville” debuted Nov. 18 to a delighted opening-night Lyceum audience.
Written by Ed Bullins, the musical made its first appearance at UCSD’s Mandeville Theatre in 1977. Broadway veteran Ken Page rearranged the show and added new songs, resulting in a memorable two-act 18-scene production that tells a story filled with hope, romance and conflict.
Page directs and deserves his own standing ovation for his creative efforts.
The story, based on true events, takes place in 1917 in a red light section of New Orleans named after an official who created the district.
It is set in Mulligan’s Saloon and Cabaret Club which is overseen by Countess Willie (Leigh Scarritt), Mayor Mulligan (Paul James Kruse), Mamma Cecelyn Lascar (DeBorah Sharpe-Taylor) and celebrated band leader Hot Licks Sam (Victor Morris).
A former professional boxer, Butch “Cobra” Brown (Alvester Martin III) arrives with suitcase and trumpet in hand, hoping to start a career in a band. He falls hard for cabaret singer Tigre Savoy (Natalie Wachen) who is trying to further her career while caring for her young son, Georgie, (a charming Tahj Myers.)
Tigre must ultimately decide between an opportunity to sing abroad or stay with her aspiring musician. Subplots include boxing and musical competitions, a who-done-it death, some illegal drug activity and the pending demise of Storyville itself. The cast consists of 21 singers and dancers and a seven-piece band.
The show’s music and lyrics are by Mildred Kayden, who attended opening night. Among several memorable songs are “Everybody’s Got Somethin’” “The Blue Book” and “Animal Stomp” in Act One, and “Boulevardier” “Two Faced Son of a Gun” and “The Music Sends Us On” in Act Two.
Overall, the show was well-paced, although it wanders a bit in Act Two, until being put back on track with the final scene.
Cautionary notes: “Storyville” is definitely adult fare. Also, there’s quite a bit of cigarette smoking and a brief moment of male, backside nudity.
No doubt about it, the San Diego Rep has a winner with “Storyville.”
If you go
What:San Diego REPertory Theatre’s “Storyville”
When:8 p.m. Friday; 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday; to Dec. 12
Where:Lyceum Stage, 79 Horton Plaza
Contact:(619) 544-1000. sdrep.org