photo: Joan Marcus
Applause, which re-sets the All About Eve Broadway backstage story in the polyester early '70's, was never a good musical. But with a campy sense of humor and a larger than life star as Margo Channing it can be a fun and tacky-fabulous gassss, baby! This Encores! edition was about as groovy as a funeral, weighted down by joyless earnestness (thanks to Kathleen Marshall's humor-free direction) and the barely-committed, far less than fun star performance by a pitilessly miscast still on-book even for the songs Christine Ebersole. With all the cheap fun drained away to expose the mediocrity of the score and the book (strike that - the score is sometimes less than even medicore, with bummers like "Fasten Your Seat Belts" worthy of serious consideration as the worst musical number of modern times) the show is a disaster - straightfaced rather than camp - and you start to resent that talented people like Kate Burton and Chip Zien have been rounded up to lend support to such a woefully misguided enterprise. (Mario Cantone, subdued and acid-funny as Duane The Hairdresser, is the only performer who makes a favorable impression) Would Patti Lupone and Leslie Kritzer have been too much to ask the theatre gods for?