Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The Pirate Queen

photo: Joan Marcus

It's nearly impossible to take anything that happens seriously in the lavish new musical The Pirate Queen, which combines the earnest bombast of Les Miserables and the visceral choreography of Riverdance with a historical preposterousness not seen since Princess Amneris' pop-art fashion show in Disney's Aida. A lot of professionalism is evident in the musical stagings and in the design, but it's all more than a little crazy: whenever the story (of a 16th century swashbuckling Irish lass who defied gender conventions by leading men in battle against England) starts to sag, you can be sure the boys in the ensemble will soon be pounding boots to floor in costumes that sometimes show off their chest waxes, so very popular in Ireland in the 1500's. The book should be a lot better than it is - what could potentially be a sensational girl-power story is sabotaged at every turn and has no more emotional punch than a pageant - and the music only has a Celtic flavor when it's time for a jig. Mostly the songs sound like Celine Dion cover bait, or alternately like rough drafts for numbers from other Boubil-Schoenberg shows; play along from your seat and spot the wannabe "Her Or Me," "Master of the House," "At The End of the Day," etc. Stephanie J. Block does all she can in the title role - she's likeably determined and gets a moment or two to break through the spectacle - and Linda Balgord is entertaining if you don't mind that she's asked to play Queen Elizabeth as a drag queen might in 1980 at The Pyramid. All my attention went to Hadley Fraser whenever he was on stage: he sings with so much gusto and passion that you think, yes, now this crazy musical will finally start to soar. No such luck.

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