photo: Scott Suchman
Short of throwing nearly the whole thing out and starting over again, I don't think Saving Aimee is saveable. No doubt a good musical could be made about Aimee Semple McPherson, the evangelist-faith healer-entertainer whose wild popularity in the first quarter of the last century was halted by scandal, but this isn't it. Dully chronological, and lacking a strong point of view and a tangible dramatic conflict, the musical mostly eschews the most compelling themes one might imagine for a musicalization of McPherson's life (religion as entertainment, for instance) and instead depicts its heroine as - stop the presses! - a pioneering career woman. The conflict remains internal and it rings false at every turn - the character's well-documented frauds, hypocrisies and lofty ambitions are glossed over to emphasize her religious fervor and her success. The opportunity for an era-appopriate score is squandered in favor of would-be Wildhorn that ranges from bland to unacceptable. E. Faye Butler does wonders with a generic "oldest profession" number, and Ed Dixon (in a wig that brings Jerry Falwell to mind) gives the evening some much-needed levity. Otherwise, the show's biggest asset is Carolee Carmello in the title role: she's convincing even in the scenes when the character is seventeen, and she gives the adult Aimee the inner light of a driven, visionary woman compelled by a higher calling. She's sensational - blazingly sensual, fiercely unbending; if someone revives Carrie anytime soon, here's a perfect Margreat White.